Glen Davis scored 18 points in Game 4 and made one jump shot. By the end of last season, had Glen Davis scored 18 points in a game, you’d have expected about a dozen of those points to come on jumpers. In his second season in the league, Glen Davis became a jump-shooter. About 60 percent of his shot attempts were jumpers, his offensive rebounding dropped from elite to league average for his position and he stopped drawing fouls.
Glen Davis worked tirelessly to become that sort of player—a jump-shooting power forward with range to 20 feet. He took hundreds of jumpers per day, and he kept taking them in games, even as he missed in bunches. And the coaches told him to keep shooting.
This, it seemed, was Big Baby’s destiny in the league. But then the Celtics signed another jump-shooting back-up big and Davis broke his hand on his friend’s head.
It was time to re-invent himself, again.
In 2010, only 42 percent of Big Baby’s shot attempts were jumpers; 55 percent came from in-close, up from 36 percent the year before, according to 82games.com. He took more shots than ever at the rim and cut his long jumpers—those taken from between 16 and 23 feet out—from 2.6 per game to 1.0 per game, according to Hoopdata.
He crashed the offensive glass, again. In 2009, Davis rebounded about 9.4 percent of Boston’s misses while he was on the court, according to Basketball-Reference. That’s about league average for his position.
This season, Davis rebounded 13.7 percent of Boston’s misses while on the court. How good is that? Of players who logged at least 500 minutes this season, only six had a higher offensive rebounding rate, according to Basketball-Reference. (The six, for trivia purposes: Jon Brockman, Greg Oden, DeJuan Blair, Kevin Love, Ben Wallace and Nazy Mohammed). Without Leon Powe, Boston needed an offensive rebounder, so Davis became one.
He drew more fouls and took more foul shots.
Simply put: Big Baby completely re-invented himself as a player for the second consecutive season. That cannot be an easy thing to do. I don’t play professional sports, so I have no idea how hard it is. But in my real job, I’m a Web reporter used to writing two or three stories a day for the blog of a national magazine. If you came to me today and asked me to drop the Web work and move on to writing two 7,000-word magazine features per year, I’m pretty sure there would be learning curve that would represent a giant professional challenge for me. My first few 7,000-word pieces would not be as good as my next two, and those two would not be as good as the ones that came after.
Baby’s re-invention started poorly, mostly because he could not score around the rim. Davis converted only 51.8 percent of his shots at the rim this season, one of the very worst marks in the league for power forwards. On average, players at Baby’s position hit about 63 percent of shots at the rim, according to Hoopdata. And as you all probably know by now, no player in the league got his shot blocked more often than did Big Baby; opponents rejected about 18 percent of Baby’s shot attempts, which is really pretty astounding when you think about it.
Boston fans were frustrated. There was an actual serious debate here and elsewhere about whether Shelden Williams should see time over Big Baby. I called the debate ridiculous at the time, and it turned out to be one of the few things I called correctly about this season.
And Davis got better, slowly. In mid-February, his shooting percentage on at-the-rim shots was under 49 percent; he finished at nearly 52 percent, so he improved a tick as the season went on. It wasn’t much, but you could see it happening, and you could see a game like tonight’s coming.
It came when Boston needed it most. Their season is alive, thanks in part to Big Baby’s hard work and willingness to adapt his game to the needs of the team. That should be appreciated.