By now you have heard both sides. On media day, Glen Davis publicly expressed some frustration about the lack of a defined role. For obvious reasons, this did not resonate well with Celtics’ coach Doc Rivers. For the record, let’s explore what was said:
“I don’t even know, I gotta find out what my role is,” said Davis. “With Rasheed [Wallace] last year, I had to become a center. Now? I don’t know. Do I become a [power forward]? Do I go back to playing the 4? We’ll see…
“It’s difficult because, as a player, you kind of don’t understand where [the organization is] going or what they are doing. No matter what I do — I can play great — it’s still not enough. I’m just here to help the team wherever possible, any way I can. Whenever I find my role, I’ll do it to the max, the only way I can….
“It bothers me, but at the same time, I’m a player,” Davis, who is in a contract year, admitted Monday. “Put me out on the court and I’ll do anything you want me to do. That’s the beauty of my position. Throw me out there and I’m going to play. I’m going to go out there and guard Shaq. Throw me out there and I’m gonna guard Rashard Lewis. Put me wherever you want to put me, I’m going to guard whoever you want me to guard. I’m just a basketball player…
“The role I would prefer to play is the role they want me to play.” (Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston)
“No, I’m not even worried about Glen Davis,” Rivers said Tuesday when asked if he had a conversation with the player. “I think he’s living up to [his Big Baby nickname]. I didn’t even hear it, someone just told me. I’m not that concerned…
“Let me put it like this: If Baby doesn’t know his role by now, he’s going to be sitting down a lot,” said Rivers. “I’ll just leave it that simple…
“No, I just move on,” said Rivers. “I’ve told him that before: His role has been the same for three years now. It’s the same. I think he likes us talking about him. That’s Glen…” (Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston).
Did you get all that? Pretty interesting stuff. However, any “controversy” involving Glen Davis and his mouth is really nothing new. When Davis was in contract negotiations prior to last season an apparent impostor tweeted some displeasure with the lack of progress. While Davis maintains his twitter account was hacked, I smelled on “Ashley Simpson on SNL” moment. Whether or not Davis was lip-syncing these tweets he is still known for being emotional and outspoken.
Most of the time this is not a problem. In fact, I would bet most coaches and GMs would prefer a player who cares deeply about his job and team over one who admitted on TeeVee that he did not try as hard as he could have (Yes, I am looking at you Vince Carter).
While Glen Davis and his mouth making the news is nothing new, it has not stopped fans and local radio commentary from absolutely killing him for these comments. Most people, including Rivers I would imagine, are frustrated because Glen Davis is a bench player. His role is do whatever the coach tells him to do. However, in the words of the late Gary Coleman from his cameo on the classic Funzo Simpsons episode, “that’s a very glib interpretation”.
Glen Davis knows he is a bench player. He has played “good soldier” for the past three years and done everything that was asked of him. He feels he is ready to make the jump. Just like anyone else in any other career, Glen Davis feels that he has been passed up for a promotion twice now- last year with the Rasheed Wallace signing and now this year with the acquisition of the brothers O’Neal.
Glen Davis, though, has a point. He has not had a definitive role during his tenure with the Celtics and the Celtics have gone out and signed players that specifically play positions in Davis’ wheelhouse. But is he justified in his claim that “No matter what I do — I can play great — it’s still not enough”?
The results are mixed.
Davis’ performance in the 2009 playoffs will always be fresh in everyone’s mind when contemplating this issue. It was nearly stuff of legend. But was it a sign that given the opportunity, Davis can be a productive starting power forward for an Eastern Conference Finals team? Or was his production merely a product of catching lightning in a bottle?
To determine this in any quantitative way, I have decided to research the overall +/- ratings of the following five man unit: Rajon Rondo. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Glen Davis, and Kendrick Perkins. Now, there are a lot of variables to consider working with five man units (namely, the other four players on the court) and at times, sample sizes can be small, but if Glen Davis thinks he can be productive given more time at the power forward position, these numbers should at least be trending positive.
Again, the benchmark for Glen Davis’ success at the power forward position has always been his performance in the 2009 playoffs. There is no doubt that Glen Davis filled-in admirably for the injured Kevin Garnett. Still, what remains to be seen is whether or not his efficiency was skewed by our expectations. There was no way Glen Davis was going to be Kevin Garnett, but could he hold his own?
In the 2009 playoffs, the five man unit with Glen Davis plus the four other starters had a net +/- of 3.64 (276 minutes). Compare that number to 10.12, which is the overall +/- of the starting lineup including Kevin Garnett for the 2008 playoffs. It’s obvious that Glen Davis is not Kevin Garnett but the Celtics still performed better than their opponents overall with either at the starting four. So far, so good for Davis.
Investigating further, Rivers hardly ever used the Glen Davis plus starters unit during the 2009-2010 regular season. This was due in part to the acquisition of Rasheed Wallace but even when Davis did play the power forward position with the rest of the starters, the numbers were not all that flattering (-37.67 in 47.17 minutes).
Similarly during the 2008-2009 regular season, the unit comprised of Glen Davis plus starters still did not perform better than their opponents overall (-5.34, 358.55 minutes). The negative number may have gotten smaller with more minutes, but this relationship is not 100% directly proportional. Remember, Davis performed better in almost 200 fewer minutes in the 2009 playoffs.
The numbers seem to say that despite Davis stepping up when the team needed him most, he still does not have a leg to stand on when he complains about not having a defined role and alluding to the success he had playing the power forward in Kevin Garnett’s absence. Or maybe Davis just needs to start in order to be effective. This, of course, is not happening as long as Kevin Garnett’s wearing green.
The best thing Davis can do is keep “soldiering on” and prove to everyone what he believes in his own head to be true when he is provided opportunities. Until he does that with some kind consistency, free agent acquisitions and opponent personnel will continue to define his role for him.
*Props to BasketValue.com for the numbers.