Following a bizarre incident at an Orlando hotel after the Magic were beaten by the Celtics, Glen “Big Baby” Davis realized the best sanctuary for him is the basketball court. Davis has spent most of the past two seasons on the sidelines with foot and shoulder injuries, hindering his opportunity to flourish after signing a new contract with the Magic.
The incident, in which an enraged Davis ripped a keyboard from a hotel computer after being denied a room in the early morning hours of Nov. 9, left him embarrassed. Davis released an apology after being fined by the club. He returned to the lineup Nov. 23 after recovering from foot surgery, and has been a staple in the Orlando lineup since.
The Magic are a dramatically different team than the one Davis was traded to in December 2011. They are in rebuilding mode, playing a core of youngsters, making the 27-year-old Davis feel like a grizzled veteran and not the “Baby” of the bunch as he was in Boston.
“I still feel a little rusty, I haven’t played organized basketball in almost a year,” he said. “I’m just trying to get all the rust out and help the team win. Me being around so many different types of players and having to fit in, there’s always one common goal — it’s winning and whatever it takes to win. And as a player, I know how to do that. It will just take time for me to readjust.”
Davis helped the Celtics to the 2008 NBA championship as a rookie, but always felt more deserving of minutes as his career progressed. After averaging just 9.3 points per game in his first year with the Magic, playing with Dwight Howard, Davis flourished last season when healthy.
Orlando was supposed to be an opportunity for Davis to shine without playing in the shadow of KevinGarnett and Paul Pierce, but that hasn’t worked out so far.
“Boston was a little different and in that type of situation I had to adjust,” he said. “But now I’m a veteran and there’s ways to play and ways not to play. It’s a simple game. It’s different here but at the same time you’ve got to be ready for it. You can’t walk into this, and then you’re going to be a leader. Leaders are born so I’ve accepted the role and always thought I was a leader in every situation I’ve been in. I realize it will make me a better player.”
Davis has trimmed down considerably since his Celtics days, trying to lighten the impact on his surgically repaired left foot. The question is whether he is part of the Magic’s long-term plans. He was acquired by Orlando’s previous general manager, Otis Smith. Current GM RobHennigan has loaded the Magic with younger players, especially at power forward. Davis could be a valuable trade chip with one year left on his contract.
“I’ve still got a long way to go as far as playing the game, getting a good feel for the game, and every day I feel like I’m getting better as far as timing,” he said. “We’re a talented team. We’ve had some injuries so far. We have a big upside on the team, we just have to make sure we stay consistent. As veterans we have to teach the young guys to be players in this league.
“This is a different role [for me]. I had 30 games last year and I’m just trying to learn as much as I can and play as much as I can.”
After his incident at the hotel and having to rehabilitate his foot injury through inactivity, Davis said he is glad basketball is his primary focus.
“I’m happy, just looking forward to it,” he said. “I love playing the game and I just want to get back to that. I went through a lot to come back and I don’t take this for granted.”
LOVE THAT DIRTY WATER
Rivers’s return sparks considerable reflection
DocRivers’s return to Boston allowed him to touch on his nine years with the Celtics among other topics. Rivers was quite emotional coming back Wednesday, fighting back tears during the video tribute between the first and second quarters at TD Garden, and then letting loose during his postgame press conference, when he reflected on the qualities of the city.
Rivers told the Globe recently that his attachment to Boston was sincere, but that he is trying to adjust to Los Angeles as coach of the Clippers.
“I was at a place that I loved and I was there for nine years. It just takes time,” he said. “I’m a city walker and you don’t have that in LA, it’s more of a driving city. In Boston, I basically parked after practice and walked the city, literally every day. There’s things that you just can’t get [in LA] but in return I get 80 degrees.
“There’s some give and take. I think it takes a long time to learn the city and get comfortable. It is unbelievably wonderful to have a family member live in the same town. That’s been awesome for me. It’s going to take a while. I just have too many friends in Boston — that’s going to take a long time.”
The Clippers looked uninterested in their 102-93 loss to the Brooklyn Nets Thursday after taking a 10-point first-quarter lead. Changing the culture in Los Angeles won’t be easy, and neither will meeting the expectations of reaching the NBA Finals.
“I am in the West [Conference], the expectations are ours and we don’t run from them,” Rivers said. “There’s also six other teams with the exact same expectations in the West that are legitimate. You always have to adjust. You have to adjust every year when you’re in the same place. You have different guys. That’s just what it is. We are adjusting.”
Rivers’s first major move as Clippers coach was to cover the plethora of retired Lakers jerseys and their 16 championship banners during Clippers games at Staples Center. For years, those banners were in plain sight during Clippers games. Rivers said he wanted to cover them as a sign of independence.
“It’s something that should have been done and the fact that I was the one to do it, I didn’t need that personally for me, but I learned a lot in Boston and one of the things I always loved about being in Boston is that’s who we were,” Rivers said. “We’re not going to hide from that — even when we were bad I felt that. When we were bad those couple of years, I always felt like we were the Boston Celtics. And we weren’t going to hide from that. That was a valuable lesson for me. This is our team. This is who we are. Let’s embrace it.
“In a crazy way, here in LA, I feel like, embrace our past don’t run from it. We don’t have a good past. That’s who we are. We have a chance to make something of that but don’t run from who we are. We’re the Clippers and that’s what I wanted our guys to feel like.”
Lakers fans, who dominate the region, now have added reason to dislike Rivers following his years as the coach of the rival Celtics.
“Others viewed it like I was trying to do something against the Lakers. And it had nothing to with the Lakers,” he said. “I was amused at how many people thought it was personal from my Boston days. It was so funny, I got that on the street, ‘You’re still trying to screw the Lakers.’ I thought it was hilarious.”
Rivers has been asked constantly about the struggles of the Nets this season and the plight of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who were traded from Boston to Brooklyn three days after Rivers left for the Clippers. Both are off to slow starts, and the Nets are just 8-15 despite winning three of their last four.
“They have a lot of clutter to say the least. I only care about Paul and Kevin and Jet [JasonTerry],” he said. “We are in contact a lot. It’s more, ‘Keep your head up, long season.’ It’s funny how many times I reach out to say that to them. Those guys are family, they’ll always be family, they’ll be my family and always be part of the Boston family, and we always want to take care of them and that’s the way I look at it.”
Speaking of “family,” Ray Allen revealed last month that he had not spoken with Pierce or Garnett since signing with Miami in July 2012. Allen also pointed out the irony of Rivers, Garnett, and Pierce essentially deciding to leave Boston for greener pastures, where he was vilified for the same decision. Rivers said he understand both perspectives.
“I was surprised by that. First of all, I don’t know if that’s true [about Pierce and Garnett not speaking to Allen],” Rivers said. “I didn’t even know that. I hope someday, and it will happen, that they get together, maybe it will be my doing trying to get them all together. The reason Ray is great, the reason Paul is great, the reason Kevin is great, is they’re all very, very competitive and it’s probably too early for them right now. It’s probably too raw and the fact that they’re still competing against each other now, but I would be very sad if five years from now they’re not friends again because they were very close.”
The issue, Rivers said, was that Allen departed the family for less money and went to the archrival Heat. Pierce and Garnett were visibly disappointed.
“It was [considered betrayal], that’s how they viewed it, and I was upset too. I’m pretty forgiving and I get over it,” Rivers said. “Ray and I talked and at the end of the day I respect what Ray did for me while he was in Boston. He made a difficult decision. It turned out to be a very good one for him. I get the other side of that too, we were so close and no one goes against the family. You know what I mean?
“That’s how close this group was. It was extraordinarily close. I know for a fact, in the 30 years I’ve been in basketball, I’ve never been with a group that’s ever been that close. And it’s not even close to a second. When the game started, the other team was the enemy and that was pretty cool.”
THE COMEBACK TRAIL
Amar’e Stoudemire tries to recapture form
Before each game, Amar’e Stoudemire lies on the floor of the Knicks’ locker room and puts inflated bags on each leg as a means of therapy for his surgically repaired knees. The six-time All-Star is trying to return to old form, but knee issues have caused him to miss 72 games over the previous two seasons and be relegated to a bench role.
Stoudemire, once a top-five player in the NBA, hasn’t started a game since April 2012. But he continues to keep the faith and hold hope that he can return to that imposing player he once was. After scoring a season-high 18 points in the Knicks’ loss to the Celtics Friday, he’s averaging 15 points over his last five games. It’s not stunning, but it’s a start for Stoudemire.
“I know that hard work pays off and if it doesn’t I’d rather just take the notion that it would than to be negative,” he said. “I always look at the glass half-full as opposed to half-empty. I work extremely hard so I do whatever I can to get back in top shape.”
Stoudemire puts his body through an intense regimen for the privilege of stepping on the court. He has undergone major surgery on each knee and doesn’t have the spring in his jump from his early days with the Phoenix Suns.
“I never thought [my body would break down]; I thought I was invincible when I was 18, 19,” said Stoudemire, who entered the 2002 draft out of high school. “With time, man, when you play at a high level, when you play so many games, you’re so athletic, the amount of pressure going up is half the pressure coming down. Just being athletic and being that type of player, it catches up with you, but at the same time you’ve got to understand what nutrition is and take care of your body and fitness.
“I feel I can still get back. It’s not over until it’s over. Your body can still react. Your body is an unbelievable mechanism and you can do whatever you put your mind to and whatever you work toward. The sky’s the limit. I believe in the higher power, man. So I understand that if I continue to work and stay humble, you never know what can happen.”
As expected, Toronto general manager Masai Ujiri lost patience with his roster and shipped Rudy Gay out of town after less than a year after he was acquired from Memphis. Ujiri said he would give the Raptors time to determine whether they are a legitimate Eastern Conference contender, and apparently got his answer after Toronto blew a 27-point lead at Golden State Dec. 3. Gay never meshed with fellow scorer DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors were a team with good players but not a great one. Now Ujiri gets to rebuild the roster in his style. But the question is, will coach Dwane Casey survive the changes? . . . There have been intimations that the Thunder are open to moving swingman Jeremy Lamb, who is averaging 9.5 points per game off the bench. Oklahoma City has not been shopping the former UConn standout, but it is looking for a scorer to emerge between Lamb and former Boston College guard Reggie Jackson. Meanwhile, former Celtic Kendrick Perkins remains in the Thunder’s starting lineup but his playing time (18 minutes per game) is his lowest since 2004-05 in Boston (9.1). Perkins has been sharing minutes with rookie center Steven Adams . . . The Charlotte Bobcats will unveil their new Hornets logo on Dec. 21, hoping a return to the old nickname will generate more fans and more support. The Bobcats are 25th in the NBA in attendance despite a better-than-expected record and there is a perception that most of the local fans have never embraced the new team after the original Hornets abruptly departed for New Orleans in 2002. The Philadelphia 76ers, by the way, are last in the NBA in attendance . . . With the Lakers missing reliable point guard SteveBlake for six weeks, they will be in search of a distributor because Steve Nash, who has missed the past month with a back injury, isn’t close to returning, and Jordan Farmar is out with a torn left hamstring. Two former Lakers, Chris Duhon and Darius Morris, are free agents looking for work. Los Angeles could also rely on Nick Young and Xavier Henry to man the point . . . Jermaine O’Neal is out indefinitely after requiring surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right wrist. That is not the same wrist that O’Neal had surgery on in March 2012, which ended his tenure with the Celtics. O’Neal was having a resurgent season with the Warriors after injuries to his wrist and knees plagued him the past few years.
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.