At what point does quirky change to erratic?
Glen Davis has always been a little different, punctuating many of his tweets with “Ayo Baby,” starting public beef with Doc Rivers; crying on the bench during an NBA game; admitting to a debilitating lack of confidence; complaining about his backup role while playing behind Kevin Garnett; screaming obscenities at hecklers; lip-syncing to Colbie Caillat while eating copious amounts of cereal; and punching his friend in the face (and injuring his thumb) while his friend was driving a vehicle. We often overlooked or devalued these outbursts of immaturity/slightly odd behavior; Davis was like everybody’s crazy uncle, the one who loves to laugh and loves a good time, but occasionally lets his quest for fun lead to bad decisions. As long as Davis could still fill in admirably at both big men spots and take charges at an impossible rate, we could overlook the times he overstepped the boundaries of normalcy.
In the past week, Davis has walked a tightrope between quirky and erratic. First, he publicly referred to himself in the third person approximately a dozen times while proclaiming (again) his desire for a larger role. In the same interview, he took a shot at Doc Rivers and seemingly severed whatever good will he still had within the Boston Celtics organization. Davis has always been liable to say anything at any time, but this time seemed like a calculated effort to make his feelings known: he does not envision a future as a Boston Celtic.
Less than a week later, Davis was at it again, this time discussing his new sports psychologist and his need for becoming mentally stronger. He later offered some unsolicited advice to Lebron James (who Davis believes should also visit a sports psychologist) and admitted that Kobe Bryant can rattle him.
“He just pisses me off on the court,” Davis told KFXX in Portland (via Sports Radio Interviews). “You stress him out and he might speak some Spanish to you and you’re like, ‘What are you talking about?’ I know you’re from Italy or somewhere, but his charisma and just the way he’s so poised, it just gets under my skin.”
Somewhere between offering King James advice, bowing down to Kobe and proclaiming Amare Stoudemire “just so hard to guard” (a little more than two months after declaring, “It’s really not that hard [to defend Amare]“), Davis compared the ideal basketball mentality to a passing cloud.
“I hired a sports psychologist to help you tap into the zone … as far as you miss a shot, you don’t worry about that,” he said. “You go to the other end and use that energy to do something else on defense. … Let it pass like a cloud. Clouds pass by you all the time and you don’t worry about it, you’ve just got to keep going. That’s what I’ve been concentrating on, just how to handle things like a professional.”
Though Davis has earned a spot in a toned-down version of Bill Simmons’s “Mike Tyson Zone” (where no actions or words should come as a surprise), he is not quite falling apart in a Marbury-an manner. I doubt Davis will ever smoke marijuana on a live U-Stream, tattoo a brand’s logo on his head, or eat vaseline in front of the viewing world. (Okay, maybe he’ll eat vaseline—but only if he’s really hungry.)
In fact, Davis’s remarks are more reminiscent of Chris Bosh than Stephon Marbury. Davis is unearthing details about himself that most people would keep secret, bearing his inside thoughts to the general public. I’m sure many players believe Lebron James needs a sports psychologist; however, few would say so during a radio interview. Like Bosh—who felt comfortable enough with the media to tell them the Boston crowd made him insecure, and whose media dealings were once described by the sentence: “He talks to the media like a teenage girl having a slumber party”—Davis’s biggest problem is not being crazy. His biggest problem is voicing thoughts many other players have, but most have the common sense to keep private. Many players have problems with coaches; few tell the media about them as frequently as Davis does.
Despite the verbal diarrhea exiting Davis’s mouth recently, ESPN’s David Thorpe listed him as the very best free agent buy this summer (a rating that included predicted price). Maybe he will be. At times, Davis has been a very good player. He filled in for Garnett admirably during the 2009 playoffs, contended for Sixth Man of the Year at the beginning of last season, and at times provides a game-changing force on both ends of the floor. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for Davis to blossom somewhere else, put his skills together more consistently, and let the game come to him rather than try too fiercely to make his presence known.
But to believe Davis will become a solid starter (or even a truly reliable role player) is to overlook a number of indicators working against him. Firstly, he has never scored efficiently. His highest PER (12.86, according to HoopData) is significantly below the league average, and he has only shot more than 45% from the field once. For a guard, that’s not great. For a big man, that’s quite awful, and the poor percentage is mostly due to Davis’s bad shot selection (too many long jumpers) and his tendency to get blocked more often than the most obsessive Facebook stalkers. Additionally, Davis does not rebound well. This past season, his offensive rebounding plummeted (to a 5.7% rebound rate) and his defensive rebound rate, while a career high (16.4%), was still less than Paul Pierce’s. When you consider that NBA players who battle weight issues rarely put together prolonged careers (think: Oliver Miller, Stanley Roberts, Robert “Tractor Traylor”), Davis’s prime might come earlier (and last for a shorter period of time) than most.
Add to that list of shortcomings Davis’s newfound confidence issues, and I’m not sold he’s a good buy this summer—even for a relatively small contract, even for a team he hasn’t yet irritated with childish behavior. I understand that Davis going to a sports psychologist is a good thing, and that it should help him stay away from prolonged slumps like the one he entered last season. But I do not ingest Advil unless I have a headache, I do not take Zyrtec unless I have serious allergies, I do not fetch a sweatshirt from my closet unless I’m cold, and I would not hire a sports psychologist unless my mind was playing severe tricks on me. Davis had serious problems this season preparing himself to play his best basketball. At some point, his game betrayed him, his confidence followed suit, and soon Davis was a shell of his former self, shrinking in the playoffs and playing himself right out of a nice contract. Maybe his mental issues aren’t serious. Maybe they won’t be lasting. But they’re real, and they leave additional question marks for a player who already has his share.
In all likelihood, Davis already played his last game as a Boston Celtic. If (or when) he leaves, I will remember all the good times fondly—the Orlando game-winner that Davis celebrated by running a child over, the Shrek and Donkey game, the good-natured laughs, the well-timed charges, the occasionally manly offensive rebounds and the sometimes-reliable jump shots—but I will not shed a tear.