ORLANDO, Fla. – The first time Glen Davis went down, he hit the floor in obvious pain toward the end of a game the Orlando Magic were winning at home.
The second time, he limped to the locker room almost unnoticed early in a game they lost on the road.
In both instances, it was bad news for a player and a team who had become accustomed to going to the playoffs.
Easy as it might be to wonder what might have been upon looking at the Magic’s 12-13 record prior to when Davis sprained his left shoulder and their 8-49 mark the rest of the way, the player known as Big Baby is having none of that. Next season can’t get here soon enough for him.
“I don’t think I ever took the playoffs for granted,” said Davis, who was part of the Boston Celtics’ 2008 championship team as a rookie and hit a game-winning jump shot against the Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals the following year. “But at the same time, you appreciate the level of intensity that the playoffs bring and just the opportunity they bring. You miss the playoffs when it’s not there in front of you.”
Davis was going hard to the rim in the final minute against the Washington Wizards the night of Dec. 19 when he was fouled across the arms by Emeka Okafor. What was supposed to be the thrill of victory gave way to the agony of 10 consecutive defeats during his convalescence.
He came off the inactive list Jan. 14 but ran into yet more misfortune a little more than two weeks later. While heading upcourt in the first quarter of a game at New York, Davis got his feet tangled with those of Knicks guard Iman Shumpert. The diagnosis was a fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, an injury which sidelined him for the duration of the season.
In all, Davis missed 48 games.
“I consider myself a healthy guy,” he said, and the numbers bear that out. Of his 56 missed games during the five previous seasons, nearly half were because of a broken right thumb sustained in a fight while riding with a childhood friend in an SUV in October 2009.
At age 27 and one of the team’s co-captains, he should be entering into the prime of his career. But with 22-year-old Nikola Vucevic and 20-year-old Tobias Harris set up to be the Magic’s center and power forward of the future, the possibility exists that Davis could be exiting in a trade like several members of the 2012 playoff team did before him.
“It’s not my place to even think about that,” he said. “My place is to worry about Glen Davis and how he can help others. That’s my only focus.”
Davis thinks highly of both coach Jacque Vaughn and general manager Rob Hennigan, who have been entrusted with guiding the Magic in the post-Dwight Howard era. As diplomatically as Davis could, he made it clear Vaughn’s approach is 180 degrees opposite from that of former coach Stan Van Gundy, who got into a heated argument with him the previous season that resulted in a two-game suspension.
“It’s a different feel,” he said with a smile. “Me, I work better with Jacque. I love Stan to death, but Jacque’s more my type.”
Already a fan favorite in Orlando prior to his injury, Davis earned bonus points in March by taunting Howard on Twitter and from the sidelines when the Los Angeles Lakers came to town. But ribbing, good-natured or otherwise, is no substitute for putting up 23 points and 12 rebounds like Davis did when the Magic defeated the Lakers earlier in the season.
That’s what he wants to get back to doing.
“Think big, be big, act big,” he said. “That’s just my mentality going into next year.”
What Davis Did Right
At the time of his shoulder injury, Davis was averaging 16 points and almost eight rebounds a game. Both were career highs and reflected the added responsibilities he willingly accepted even before the trade of Howard. He was the team’s most consistent inside scorer and, along with Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick, served as one of the few steadying veteran influences on the roster.
Where He Needs to Improve
All indications are that Davis intends to come to training camp lighter than he has ever been in his career. But he’ll still have his hands full trying to defend much larger centers and lengthier power forwards, and he needs to cut down on his turnovers. The improvement of Nikola Vucevic and the emergence of Tobias Harris make the Magic a different team than the one with which he began last season.
Dec. 17 vs. Minnesota. One game prior to the injury which left both him and the Magic reeling, Davis showed his worth by scoring 28 points and outplaying Kevin Love in a 102-93 victory over the Timberwolves. During a five-minute stretch of the third quarter, he made all six of his shots, including three dunks.
Davis has two years remaining on a contract which will pay him $6.4 million next season. Only Nelson and Arron Afflalo will be making more than him, presuming the Magic part ways with both Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington.