Glen Davis plays big role for C's

BOSTON -- As Glen Davis dressed for the flight to Cleveland after Tuesday night's season opener, a crowd of reporters began to assemble near his locker, no doubt awaiting some basketball bon bons from the genial Boston Celtics big man.

Davis has yet to meet a microphone he doesn't like and is an unfailingly accommodating fellow, especially when he has played a big role in a Celtics' victory, as was the case in Tuesday's 88-80 win over the Cleveland, er, Miami Heat.

As Davis saw the people lining up, he uttered the prophetic line, "Doc must have said something good about me. There are a lot of people here." He then made sure he looked the part, black glasses and all, tie knotted just right.

Doc Rivers, the coach of the Celtics, did indeed have something very good to say about Davis in the aftermath of the game. As well he should. Davis was the first man off the bench, logged more than 29 minutes (11 more than Shaquille O'Neal) and had 13 points and five rebounds. He took a couple of charges -- and should have had one more -- and had a big hand in the win.

"Baby was terrific," Rivers said of Davis, resorting to the nickname that everyone still uses, much to Davis' chagrin. "Right now, he's the fifth guy because he knows a lot of our stuff. JO [Jermaine O'Neal] and Shaq will get theirs [minutes], but we've got to make sure we milk Baby until then."

While the big threes of each team had their moments (or not, in the cases of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh), the Celtics got some much-needed help from their one and only Big Baby. It wasn't quite the 23-point, eight-rebound submission in Game 2 of last season's playoff series against Miami, when he got the start for the suspended Kevin Garnett and abused the Heat from pillar to post.

But it was an active, assertive, energy-providing Davis who played the lion's share of the minutes at the center position. For a guy who openly wondered about his role on the first day of training camp, it now is pretty clear what Rivers wants from the fourth-year pro.

But can Rivers get it again Wednesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers? And Friday against the Chicago Bulls? After Davis' big performance in Game 2 of the Miami series, he managed 13 points and eight rebounds over the next three games.

"It's time to play consistent for a whole year," Davis said. "Be a professional."

That wouldn't be just music to Rivers' ears. That would be Sinatra and Streisand endlessly serenading him.

Davis is the same guy who didn't make his debut last season until Christmas, thanks to an ill-conceived (and executed) punch that resulted in a fractured thumb. He appeared in only 54 games.

He's healthy now. And if there ever is an opportunity for the likable Louisianan, it is the here and now. Kendrick Perkins is out for a while. Shaq isn't going to log big minutes. The habitually injured Jermaine O'Neal was a veritable cipher against one of his former teams.

Rivers showed his faith in Davis, playing him for all but 33 seconds of the fourth quarter, when LeBron James reprised his Cavs' role as One Man Wrecking Crew and nearly stole the game. In the space of 56 seconds, Davis drew a charge on Wade, converted a dunk off a Rajon Rondo feed and then finished a Garnett feed with one of his patented, twisting, contorted layups. He also hit a 14-foot jumper off another Garnett feed that gave the Celtics a supposedly commanding 83-70 lead with 4:13 to play.

"When you grow up and see yourself in the NBA, you dream of moments like that," Davis said. "It feels good. I understand what I'm here for. I'm here to sacrifice myself. When you sacrifice yourself, great things happen at the end.

"This is my fourth year," he continued. "It's like I'm ready for graduation. You play the game. You learn the system. You have to get to a comfort zone. I'm working hard to get there."

The great unknown, of course, is whether Davis can do this more than, say, once a fortnight. He talked repeatedly about "doing whatever Doc wants me to do." Rivers can pretty much give him Tuesday night's game film with a Post-it Note saying, "Watch! This is what I want you to do."

Davis can be a valuable weapon off the bench. Despite his size, he can be sneaky quick. He has excellent hands and footwork. Quite simply, the guy knows how to play the game. It has been thus since he arrived in town as a second-round draft pick in 2007.

He has a championship ring. Like everyone else in the Celtics' locker room from the 2007-08 team, he feels one is not enough. The team's fortunes this season may well ride on the shoulders of the other, more notable Celtics. But the Boston bench is going to have a say in all this as well. Davis spoke loud and clear Tuesday night.

Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.