What's with this Baby talk?


What's with this Baby talk?

By Rich Levine

I can't wrap my brain around Glen Davis right now.

That's actually a pretty good set up for a joke (I know Doc would take the bait), but this is no laughing matter. This is serious, like KG's face as it's being smashed into the basket support.

I'm sitting here trying to understand why Big Baby said what he did at Celtics Media Day. What he meant. Where his motives lie. And nothing really makes sense.

You know that dizzy, helpless feeling you get after you've spent too much time trying to piece together the plots of the Back to the Future trilogy? (Oh, that's just me?) OK, well, it's beyond frustrating, and that's where I'm at.

Most of the confusion actually stems from a conversation I had with Davis about 10 minutes before the quotes that got all the attention, so before we get to the controversial statement, here's what happened before the cameras arrived and Davis went off.

The question was about his jump shot, which was deadly down the stretch in 2009 but disappeared entirely last season. It's not that Davis lost his touch either; he was just never in a position to use it. But with the addition of Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal, you'd expect this year to be different, so I wanted to know, despite his year-long sabbatical, if he had the jumper ready to go.

"Most definitely," he said. "That was one of my most focal points this summer. Last year, with the addition of Rasheed Wallace I had to go to the five position, but this year we have power at the five position and a lot of guys that can play the forward spots, so I can go back to my natural position where, the year Kevin went out, I really found a groove."

He was upbeat and optimistic, and I didn't blame him.

Last year was a tough one for Davis. He'd found success in this league one way, but the Celtics didn't need that player anymore. They needed him on the block, and for the most part, at least publicly, he never spoke out. He stayed quiet (except for that night in Detroit), sucked it up (not going to make joke about that night in Detroit), and to his credit did a great job. He embraced the change, crashed the boards and probably played harder on a nightly basis than anyone on that team.

But by the end of the season, his frustration was clearly mounting. For some reason, I always remember something Davis said before Game Seven of the Finals in L.A. Perk had already been ruled out, and, whether or not Baby started, he was still in line for a big bump in playing time.

When asked how he'd approach this opportunity, Davis said:

"I'm not a threat out there. And I know I can be a threat. I know what kind of player I am. The Lakers know what kind of player I am, but they really haven't seen me. I haven't hit a lot of jumpers this series. I have hit a lot of jumpers this year. But I can hit an open jumper, and they're giving it to me. I'm gonna be real aggressive. I'm either gonna be aggressive and Doc pulls me out of the game because I'm being too aggressive or I'm gonna be aggressive and hit my shots. I'm not about to sit here, and think about what I should have did. I'm gonna go out do what I should do."

That's a guy who's ready to break out. He felt shackled by his role on last year's team, so in speaking with him on Monday, I wasn't surprised to hear the excitement in his voice as he talked about getting back to his natural position; the place where he found his groove.

I walked around a little bit more, gawked at Shaq for a while, and then left Media Day feeling great about Glen Davis.

Happy. Motivated. Focused.

I got home, and turned on my computer to this:

"I gotta find out what my role is.," Davis told reporters when asked about the O'Neal effect. "With Rasheed last year, I had to become a center. Now? I don't know. Do I become a power forward? Do I go back to playing the 4? We'll see.

"It's difficult because, as a player, you kind of don't understand where the organization is going or what they are doing. No matter what I do I can play great it's still not enough. I'm just here to help the team wherever possible, any way I can. Whenever I find my role, I'll do it to the max, the only way I can."

I don't know. There's so much that doesn't make sense.

First of all, forget for a second that Davis actually does know his role and consider if there's really any question to begin with. Given the roster, how else would he fit in on this team? And given the circumstances, how else should the Celtics have handled the past few seasons? It's not like they asked him to move to center in 2009 and then backup point guard in 2010. He's a power forward who was asked to play center for one season and now, a year later, is being moved back to his natural position. It's that simple. Davis is a role player. That's the way it works. And the truth is, it doesn't matter what position Davis is playing, his role is always the same: Come off the bench and bring energy and rebounding. Sure, there will be times where you are expected to hit some jump shots other times, when you're not. But that's always second priority at best.

OK, now remember that Davis actually does know and understand his role, and ask yourself: "Why did he say it?" Your guess is as good as mine.

Maybe this was just a "Randy Moss at the Podium" moment. Maybe Davis has a lot of pent-up feelings from last season that festered over the summer, and he wanted to get them all out before the season got underway. Like Randy, maybe he got going on an emotional topic, couldn't stop himself and ended up saying way too much, or maybe, like Randy, Baby's just feeling under appreciated and wants a little love. Maybe he's worried about not having a firm identity as he heads into free agency next summer (although, versatile big man has a nice ring to it). Or maybe, as Doc Rivers implied, Davis just likes people talking about him.

If so, mission accomplished. But there's one more far important mission, if he chooses to accept it, on the horizon for Davis this year.

Just play basketball.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Bradley continues adapting, improves ball-handling and court vision


Bradley continues adapting, improves ball-handling and court vision

WALTHAM, Mass. – Just like Avery Bradley comes back each season with a new element in his basketball tool box, defenses have adapted to some degree to try and counter whatever Bradley is doing a better job at.

Before it was take away the mid-range shot and make him a 3-point shooter. Now it’s run him off the 3-point line by closing out hard and fast against him.

Well, running him off the 3-point line is actually playing into the hands of two areas of Bradley’s game that have seen significant growth during the offseason: ball-handling and court vision.

Bradley’s improvement in those areas has been evident in the preseason, something the seventh-year guard hopes to continue in the regular season opener on Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets.

“I worked on my ball-handling a lot,” Bradley said. “Instead of doing all the Kyrie (Irving) stuff that trainers have people do, I tried to focus on just one or two moves, just perfecting a few moves that I can put into my game.”

What we’ve seen from Bradley is better sense of when to attack players with his ball-handling and when to use it as a set-up to get his teammates good shots.

He attributes both to the work he has put in and just becoming an older, more wiser player on the floor.

“I’m able to make plays for my teammates because I’m a lot more confident in my ball-handling, in my play-making and my decision-making," said the 25-year-old Bradley. "I feel a lot more comfortable out there.”

While it may not seem like that big a deal that Bradley’s putting the ball on the floor more and attacking off the dribble, it’s actually really important for this Celtics team.

With Bradley now looking to attack off the dribble more, that means that the Celtics now have a starting five – Isaiah Thomas, Bradley, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson and Al Horford – with each player comfortable and confident in their ability to take most defenders and their respective positions, off the dribble.

That makes Boston a significantly better team offensively in terms of being highly unpredictable and to a larger degree, tougher to contain.

“He’s a great defender, one of the best in the NBA,” Boston’s Amir Johnson told CSNNE.com. “But people sleep on his offensive game. He can hit the corner 3s, wing 3s, pull-up jumpers … he can pretty much do it all out there. Now that he’s looking to get to the rim more, that just makes him and our team really, much better.”

Indeed, Bradley sounds as though he plans to continue probing different ways to generate points for the Celtics.

One approach he’ll surely take is to do a better job of taking advantage of the mistakes defenses make against him, like players who try and chase him off the 3-point line.

“Me being  a better 3-point shooter should challenge me to think the game a little more,” he said. “If it’s drawing fouls … I know I should be drawing more fouls from the 3-point line. There are times when people are just running out of control at me at the 3-point line. I have to be smarter.”

Bradley added, “I worked on that this summer. It’s translated in practice, so now it needs to translate in games.”

Bradley supporting Olynyk as he returns from shoulder surgery


Bradley supporting Olynyk as he returns from shoulder surgery

WALTHAM, Mass. – Avery Bradley had just returned to the Boston Celtics lineup after having had surgery on both shoulders, eager to put his injury-riddled days in the past.

Then-Celtics assistant coach Tyronn Lue had suffered a similar shoulder injury a decade earlier in 2003, so he knew all too well what Bradley was going through.

“I remember Tyronn Lue took me to the side and said, ‘you’re going to struggle,’” Bradley recalled. “When he said it to me, I was like, ‘what is he talking about?’”

The words of Lue, now the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, were indeed prophetic. And now that current Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk is back to practicing after having surgery on his right shoulder, Bradley plans to be there for Olynyk the way Lue was there for him.

Bradley, who missed the first 30 games of the 2012-2013 season recovering from the injury, recalls struggling with his shot for the first couple of weeks.  

His first game back was Jan. 2, 2013. For the next two weeks, Bradley shot 40.6 percent from the field (28-for-69) and 28.6 percent (8-for-28) on 3s, both below his career averages in those respective categories.

Bradley is hopeful Olynyk doesn’t struggle as much as he did upon his return to the lineup from shoulder surgery.

But just in case, Olynyk knows he has a teammate who literally knows what he’s going through right now in trying to get back on the floor and play good basketball.

“It’s our job as his teammates to help keep him confident in himself,” Bradley said. “I told him, ‘you’re going to have your days when you come in and you might make shots. Then you’ll have your week where you don’t make a shot.’ You just have to stay confident.”

But Bradley admits it’s a lot easier said than done, especially when you’ve had success shooting the ball and now all of a sudden the shots that you normally make in your sleep keep you up at night wondering why they no longer going in.

“It just happens. The muscle memory, you have to get it back,” Bradley said. “It’s just reps; that’s what it took. It took like maybe a good month before my shot felt good again. It’ll probably be the same for Kelly; hopefully not. If it is, I’ll be there to make sure he’s positive and knowing it’s a process and he has to continue to get shots up.”

But there’s more to returning to the game when healthy.

While the body may be ready to go, the mind more often than not hasn’t totally cleansed itself of the injury.

“It’s still in the back of your mind, thinking it’s going to happen again,” Bradley said. “You may not want to drive it to the basket as much or box out the same way or be aggressive. But like I said, we have to give him that confidence and he has to do his work as well, staying in the weight room, making sure he’s strong. We’re here to help.”

And no one is offering the consistent assistance that Bradley has to his injured teammate.

“I’ve taken him to the side like five times already and I told him, ‘I’m here bro. Whatever you need,’” Bradley said. “I’m just happy that he’s back."