By A.Sherrod Blakely
WALTHAM Boston Celtics forward Glen Davis has heard it all.
You're not good enough.
You're too short.
You're too fat.
With so much negativity being tossed his way, it stands to reason that he plays the game with something to prove.
But there comes a time when it's not about proving a point; but simply, playing the game.
And this lesson is one Davis is still learning.
A muscle strain in Kevin Garnett's lower right leg forced him to miss nine games. In that time, Davis was the starter.
We have seen Davis fill in for Garnett in past years, but this time around it was different.
Davis knew he would have a limited number of games, because unlike the right knee injury Garnett suffered a couple years ago, the C's knew he would be back in a couple of weeks.
In that time, Davis would have a golden opportunity to play well, and potentially increase his stock as a free agent this summer.
He had his moments of stellar play.
There was the 17-point, 5-rebound night in Boston's 96-93 win over Minnesota. He later scored a season-high 23 points in Boston's 105-103 win over San Antonio, holders of the best record in the NBA.
Davis scored in double figures in all but one of the nine starts, but something wasn't right.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself when I was starting," Davis said. "I didn't play with a relaxed flow."
So while Davis was scoring, he needed a lot of shot attempts to do so. As a starter, he averaged about 14 shot attempts per game. While coming off the bench, Davis averages just a shade over 10 per game.
In addition to shooting more, Davis' defense and rebounding also suffered.
Following a 90-79 loss at Chicago, a game in which Davis played a season-high 43 minutes, coach Doc Rivers was clearly bothered by the number of shot attempts Davis took in relation to his teammates.
"We gotta shorten Baby's minutes, No. 1," Rivers said. "And we got to get him to be more of a pick-setter. Right now, he's more of a shooter. He's got to get back to setting picks."
At that time, Davis had taken more shots than Paul Pierce and Ray Allen over the course of the previous five games.
"I love him," Rivers said of Davis. "But that should never happen."
Davis acknowledged he hit a stretch as a starter when, frankly, he wasn't playing his game.
"I got out of myself and tried to be something else," Davis said. "That's not how it works. You have to be yourself."
And when he has simply been Glen Davis, the results have been impressive to the point where he is very much in the running for the league's Sixth Man of the Year award.
As a reserve, he's averaging 12.5 points per game.
While his scoring average (13.7) is slightly higher as a starter, his field goal percentage (48.4 to 41.1), free throw percentage (77.8 to 75) and rebound (5.7 to 4.2) numbers are all better when he's coming off the bench than they are when he's with the first unit.
Stretches of poor or inconsistent play have marred Davis during his three-plus seasons in Boston.
But this season, Davis' steady play has been one of the many keys to the Celtics (32-9) hitting the halfway point of the season with the best record in the Eastern Conference.
"Baby has his days, but overall, he's had very few of them," Rivers said. 'He has had a tremendous attitude, a team attitude in a contract year which is very difficult. I don't think he gets enough credit for that part of it. The only time he gets himself in trouble, is when he forgets that he's Glen Davis."
Rivers quipped, "I don't know how you can forget something that big, personally. He's just been fantastic. Our record is where it's at because we have Glen Davis on our team."