Glen Davis' first year with the Orlando Magic can be described in several ways. Many fans in Orlando would agree that most of his 2011-12 campaign was disappointing. Such a description speaks volumes as most fans were focused on the Dwight Howard saga that overshadowed the season. Davis' underwhelming play, reluctance to accept a reserve role and myriad of personal problems stood out on a team that couldn't escape drama and his impact on the team took on a life of its own.
The atmosphere was terrible, truly a bad NBA soap opera. All soaps, however, seem to benefit from a late season comeback and Davis found himself in the starring role. The Magic would lose Howard to season-ending back surgery and the embattled forward immediately jumped at the opportunity to show everyone the skills that made him a fan favorite during his four-year stint with the Boston Celtics. Davis nearly doubled his scoring and rebounding averages through the final month of the season and led the Magic in both categories during the playoffs.
The reemergence restored the 26-year-old forward’s confidence and won back many of the fans that had soured on him during the season. It was a satisfying feeling for Davis, but not nearly enough. He's enjoyed the taste of winning a championship as a role player, but never had an opportunity to be a feature player. However, that will change this season.
The player affectionately called "Big Baby" will be one of the Magic's go-to guys, a challenge he has wanted for many years. The spotlight, and everything that comes along with it, will be on him this season. He can't wait to get started and is eager to prove he can handle the responsibility of being in a featured role.
"It's about time," Davis said. "I love it. If you think about my career, where I've been and the things I've had to do in spite of different situations, I think it's about time."
It's time to see what he can really do with the opportunity to play a significant amount of minutes, playing free with nobody in front of him. Not a Hall-of-Fame great like Kevin Garnett or a lights-out shooter like Ryan Anderson. Will he make the most of this opportunity?
“I know the ups and downs that come with it, but in my path I've had a lot of influential people show me the way and make me understand what it's going to take,” Davis said. “I've seen it, now it's time to go out there and walk the walk.”
Davis isn't a stranger to big minutes, shots and responsibility. He was great for the Celtics in the 2008-09 season when Garnett was lost to a season-ending knee injury. In only his second season, Davis played with the confidence of a seasoned veteran. He had great moments including a Game 4 buzzer-beater against the Magic in their 2009 second-round matchup. Davis believes those moments have prepared him to have success in his increased role, success that shouldn't surprise anyone.
"You've seen glimpses, you've seen the playoffs," Davis said. "You've seen me in a roll when I'm told to just play and nobody is telling me when to shoot. Nobody's telling you to do this or that, only to go out there and be you. And when you've seen that, you’ve seen me play like my second year in the league. KG is hurt, Leon Powe is hurt and I was told to go out there and just play.
"You've seen glimpses, now it's an opportunity to see a whole different human being. I can't predict the future, but I know right now that I'm going to do everything that it takes to be that guy. Accepting the good and bad criticism, holding players accountable, not being complacent and making sure we, as players, are doing everything the coaches ask of us. That's my oath to this team."
While Davis can't predict the future, one thing he won't need to worry about is the incidents in his past. Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn has given Davis a clean slate, which is something that has helped the forward earn the trust of his new coach.
"The great thing is Glen’s past with me is the present," Vaughn said. "When you say past with him, I have no idea what that was. The day that I introduced myself to Glen was the day that our relationship started."
Vaughn has been impressed with Davis' effort and energy. The first-year coach will depend on Davis for production and leadership this season.
“He’s been great in practice and great in the games," Vaughn said. "He’s really giving a consistent effort on both ends of the floor. We’ll continue to have conversations about his leadership. He’s a big part of what we do and we have young bigs in our locker room, so not only is his presence big on the floor, but also on the bench and in the locker room while he’s around the guys. It’s a lot to ask of one individual, but the impression that I got was that he wanted to shoulder that responsibility so I’m going to give it to him.”