Celtics' Davis is progressing in good time

By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / March 29, 2009
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ATLANTA - While several teammates had showered and left, Glen Davis sat in front of his locker, taking time to collect himself. There was a box score nearby that showed the second-year forward had played a career-high 43 minutes in the Celtics' 99-93 victory over the Hawks Friday night at Philips Arena.

"I'm tired, man," said Davis with a smile after recording a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds.

Davis has learned this season that it's not easy trying to fill the shoes of teammate Kevin Garnett, who missed his 14th game of the season with pain in his right knee. Garnett is also expected to sit out tonight's home game against Oklahoma City. The next opportunity for Garnett to return would be Wednesday against Charlotte.

As long as Garnett is out, expect Davis to be in the starting lineup at power forward.

"It's a whole different ballgame," Davis said. "I have big shoes to fill. I've got to stay in my game, stay in my role, and can't worry about [Garnett's situation]. I just have to play my game."

Davis is averaging 10.9 points while shooting 49.8 percent from the field, 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 30.9 minutes in nine starts. In 57 games as a reserve, Davis is averaging 5 points while shooting 40.8 percent, 2.1 rebounds, 0.7 assists, and 17.8 minutes.

Davis knows Garnett will return to the lineup soon. With that in mind, he knows he has to improve his mental focus to play as well as a reserve as he has as a starter.

"Mentally, I think I'm more focused when [Garnett's] not [playing] because I need to play," Davis said. "When [Garnett's] on the floor, [coach Doc Rivers] is not going to say that I need to play and do well. It's not as intense as when [Garnett's] not here. But one thing that I need to work on in my game is bringing that intensity level every game.

"I'm learning how to be a pro, to understand that mental state every time when you're focused and locked into it all the time. You just have to practice it and get a lot of repetition and stay focused every game."

Said teammate Ray Allen, "The big thing is for him to continue to build off of games like [Friday's] and continue to be solid. Some games you might have 2 points. But defensively, be a presence out there, and offensively, be in the right position to make plays."

Davis showed inconsistency as a rookie last season, averaging 4.5 points and 3 rebounds in 13.6 minutes per game. He scored 20 points in a big win at Detroit Jan. 5, 2008, but he also did not play because of a coach's decision 12 times. The second-round pick enhanced his game with improved conditioning and by adding a consistent midrange jumper during the offseason.

Davis has had other solid performances of late, hitting the winning jumper at San Antonio March 20, then scoring a career-high 24 points at Memphis the next day.

And with his fine play during Garnett's absence, Davis's confidence has improved.

"It's grown a lot knowing I can go out there and shoot the ball a little bit," he said. "I can tell I'm going [well]. Usually when I make a mistake, I don't know what I did. But now when I make a mistake, I know what I did exactly and I know what to do."

"He's more comfortable now," said teammate Kendrick Perkins. "He's into his role. He knows his role better. He's doing a lot of little things like running off set picks, which is getting him open."

Davis's play likely will draw interest during free agency this summer. The ex-Louisiana State star is making $711,517 this season, and one general manager said he could command $3 million-$5 million per season. Since Davis is a restricted free agent, the Celtics could match any offer.

"It's hard not to think about it," said Davis of free agency. "But I'm just trying to go out there and play."

The Celtics took yesterday off after returning from Atlanta. Rivers said there will be no shootaround before tonight's game . . . Rajon Rondo said after Friday night's game that his ankles felt fine and that he planned on getting treatment yesterday . . . The Thunder, formerly the SuperSonics, will be making their first appearance in Boston, and practiced at Emerson College yesterday.

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