By Jessica Camerato
BOSTON -- It didn't take long to recognize a transformation in Glen Davis this season.
It started with the charges, as he sacrificed his body and slammed to the floor night after night. Next came the jumpshots, which he began to knock down on a consistent basis. Then there were the interviews where he spoke about leadership, maturity, and accountability.
Davis had come a long way from the player who, just last season, broke his thumb fighting a friend and was fined for shouting an obscenity at a fan.
Big Baby was growing up -- but what changed him? Why now?
As Davis revealed, someone very small has had a huge influence on him.
"The summer was an eye-opening experience for me, just because of losing in the Finals," he told CSNNE.com. "Then also it comes to realization of, 'Hey, I've become a father.' I think that was one of the biggest things that really changed me."
It was this time last year that Davis learned he was going to become a dad. He could see the baby bump and feel the kicks, but he had no idea how much of an impact his little girl would have on him.
While he prepared for the birth of his first child, he continued to focus on basketball.
In June, Davis and the Celtics suffered the agony of a Game Seven loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. Just as his role as a person was about to change in a few months with the birth of his daughter, so was his role as a basketball player.
"I'll never forget," he said, "Michael Finley told me right after dinner after Game Seven, 'Make sure in training camp, you need to establish yourself.' I took that with me through the whole summer -- 'Establish yourself. You need to be a force to be reckoned with.' "
Finley stressed to Davis that the Celtics could run the ball through him in the second unit this season. "You're capable enough to be doing that," the veteran said. Davis let the advice sink in. Then, it clicked.
"I thought about it," Davis recalled. "I was just like, 'I am. I am capable of being a post threat, being a outside shooter, being a really, really big factor on this team.' I felt like I didn't use all my talents to my advantage, so I always remembered that going into the summer."
Davis set out to Las Vegas for an offseason of intense conditioning. He worked out at Joe Abunassar's Impact Basketball and trained at the UFC headquarters, where Davis adopted the "never quit, never tap out" UFC fighter attitude. "That's just my mentality now," he said.
He returned to Boston as the Celtics were welcoming newcomers like Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal. All the while, Davis was preparing to welcome a new addition of his own.
On September 2, his world changed. Davis was left speechless at the birth of his daughter, Amari.
"We wrote to her, 'Welcome to the world,' and I couldn't even write," he said. "I got so emotional I couldn't even write. It made me realize, 'Wow, something so small can have such a big effect on you.' It changed me, and it's still changing me to this day."
Davis, 24, quickly matured as a father. As he embraced the accountability and responsibility of having a child, he saw the ties between parenthood and the NBA.
"You have to hit that adult level because you have to make adult decisions," he said. "You have to mature, and I think that had a lot to do with my game and basketball . . . You have to be real punctual, real precise with a baby. You have to be reliable. There are so many things that dealing with a baby and being a player in this game have in common."
Davis credits Celtics coach Doc Rivers for making him open to the maturation process. He appreciates that Rivers enforces a sense of professionalism and holds him to his own actions, characteristics he hopes to instill in Amari.
Davis says Rivers has taught him, "If you want it, you've got to go get it." He wants to be a good father the same way he strives to be a good teammate.
"First of all, you have more of an animal instinct," Davis said. "It's like you're defending your cub. It comes to a point where this is your livelihood. You have to feed, and you think about it in that way. Then you think about it in a way like, 'How can I represent my child so when she looks back, she can be real proud of her father?'
"Just the mentality of being accountable, you have to be there. And that's how you have to be for your teammates. My daughter know what she's going to get from me every day. She's going to get love, affection, discipline. It relates to basketball in a lot of ways, and I've used the mentality I have with my daughter to help my basketball game."
Davis' reliability off the Celtics bench has sparked Sixth Man of the Year chatter, and his improved offensive game has been a key to the team's success.
He is averaging over 12 points per game this season (double that of last year), including an average of 15 points and 7 rebounds in the last 10 games alone.
Throughout the entire season, many have questioned if Davis' performance is a result of his expiring contract. He quickly shot down that notion. Davis has had something to prove since he fell to the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft.
"I'm doing it because I believe I can be the player I know I can be," he said. "Man, I'm just blessed and fortunate to be in this situation because of my outlook on life and my heart and what I believe in. God can only give you so much. You have to take and you have to work it. That's like fate versus free will. He gives it to you, and now you have to go out there and work for it. I just want to do my part when it's all said and done."
It is important to Davis to do his part to give his daughter a happy upbringing. He had a challenging childhood growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as his mother struggled with drug-related problems. Davis faced situations that he says, "as a young kid, you shouldn't have to go through."
After years of hardship, Davis is happy to share that his own mother is on a positive track. His face lit up as he tells that his wish for his mother to get clean has come true.
"She's doing good," he smiled. "She's been clean for almost a year, two years now. I'm just proud of her and her struggle also. She's a strong-minded person and she's been doing great. She's been in my daughter's life since she's been born. It might not have came as I wanted it to come at that moment, but it's come."
For every charge Davis takes, loose ball he stumbles out of bounds after, and ice pack he applies to soothe his aching body, there is a greater sense of satisfaction knowing that he is doing it for his daughter.
The littlest person in his life is making the biggest impact of them all.
Follow Jessica Camerato on Twitter at http:www.twitter.comjcameratonba