You’re going to laugh at me, but these are the things I do:
I spend a lot of time thinking about Glen Davis’s role on the Celtics. Not just because he’s quickly become an important piece to everything they accomplish, but also because of his comments before the season. Remember? Davis talked about how he was unsure what his role would be, about how it was annoying that his role always changed.
Now that he’s thriving in a still ever-evolving role, I wonder whether his role ever really DID change. Yeah, he switches between the power forward and center positions like Quentin Richardson switches teams. But hasn’t that always kind of been his role? To be a utility man? To be versatile? To provide whatever Doc Rivers needs, whenever he needs it, for however long he needs it?
Maybe Davis’s role doesn’t matter. Whatever Rivers asks him to do, Davis is thriving. He takes a charge every time I blink my eyes, has finally learned how to finish at the rim (just don’t shoot it into an opponent’s hands), and — probably linked to his improved finishing – has also learned how to play with efficiency. His PER (15.38) would be the best of his career, by far. Best of all, Davis has produced more while doing less. His usage rate (16.57) would be his all-time low. He has finally learned how to use the offense effectively, to let the offense create his looks rather than vice versa. On top of all that Davis provides with his basketball talent, he has one more skill that he puts to use on a daily basis: energy.
Then again, maybe Davis’s role does matter. Except for when KG went down a couple years ago, Davis’s job has always been the same — provide a spark of adrenaline off the bench, and fit in with whatever four teammates he’s playing with. When Davis started during that 2009 postseason run, the Celtics missed having a game-changer off the bench. Davis played well, but his absence on the bench left a void.
Whenever the O’Neal’s are both out at the same time (and don’t be surprised if it happens soon, or often), Rivers will have to choose between starting Davis or Semih Erden. Davis, clearly, is a better player than Erden. He is more proven. Rivers trusts him more. But it’s also significant to have his presence on the bench.
Paul Pierce sums up Rivers’s potential dilemma nicely when he discussed the predicted effect of missing both O’Neal’s at the same time.
“When Baby is out there, he’s that energy off the bench, so they take that away,” Pierce told the Boston Globe. “It takes away from our inside presence defensively with our length, and shot blocking with Jermaine and Shaq. I think Baby is a great player for us but he’s more suited for this team in coming off the bench and providing that energy.
“It’s just hurts our depth when [Davis] is pretty much the end-of-the-game guy and when you come to the end of the game and Baby has been playing extended minutes, it’s different.’’
Additionally, Davis is the Celtics’ only reliable backup power forward. When he is forced into playing a lot of center minutes, it almost inevitable forces Garnett to play too many minutes himself. Nobody wants that.
All of these reasons are why Doc Rivers said he will likely start Semih Erden if both O’Neal’s miss tonight’s game. Erden is quickly proving that he will have a bigger impact than I originally expected. Not only does he provide insurance for both the (uber-fragile) O’Neals, but Erden also allows Rivers to keep Davis where the Celtics want him — on the bench. Even when the O’Neals nurse nagging injuries.
(But oh, yeah: Erden will eventually need surgery himself, on his shoulder. Rivers said Erden’s surgery will wait for Kendrick Perkins’s return or perhaps even the end of the season. Joy!)
One more thought on Davis, this one not as praising: