MEDFORD, Mass. -- With more than a month to digest his end-of-the-season struggles, Boston Celtics forward/center Glen Davis said Monday that he wasn't mentally ready for the postseason and has spent the start of a murky offseason exercising his mind.
After setting career highs while averaging 11.7 points and 5.4 rebounds over 29.5 minutes per game during the 2010-11 season, Davis disappeared in the playoffs, averaging a mere 4.9 points and 3.6 rebounds over 21.2 minutes per contest and the Celtics were eliminated by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals. While some pundits wondered whether Davis was physically prepared for the postseason, he suggested Monday it was all mental.
"(The postseason struggles) weighed on me a lot," Davis said during a community appearance in which the first of three deserving local families received a Celtics-themed court and bedroom makeover. "I pride myself on playing good basketball, especially when you need it. Every postseason I've played tremendously good, to the point where it was like, 'Wow.' But this summer it didn't happen because I felt, mentally, I wasn't ready and prepared enough for what was in front of me. I didn't prepare for it well mentally, and it affected the way I played. That's what I've been doing this offseason, concentrating on making sure that postseason won't happen again.
"This summer's a different summer for me as far as just growing fully and being who I can truly be as a person and in my game as a player. Mentally I've been exercising my mind because of what's about to happen. I've always said I need to work on a certain part of my game and this year mentally I wasn't there. My body was there, but I was not there mentally."
Davis never clarified exactly what was weighing on his mind, but lingering free-agent status surely was chief among them. Davis will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and, particularly with a potential lockout looming, his future is very much up in the air. A new collective bargaining agreement would help determine whether his basketball address will change, but Davis said he's not worrying about what he can't control.
What Davis is worrying about is making sure he can be himself wherever he plays his next basketball.
"I feel I know what's most important to me and that's Glen being Glen. I can't perform the way I need to perform if I'm not Glen Davis. I need to be in a situation where I'm going to be Glen Davis. If it's here with the Celtics or with somebody else, I just want to make sure I'm Glen Davis, whatever I do, wherever I'm at. That's all I'm really concentrating on, being Glen Davis, and being a complete player."
Asked if he can be "Glen Davis" in Boston, Davis endured a long pause before answering.
"I can be Glen Davis wherever," he said. "It depends on the system, the people around the system, who is going to let Glen Davis be Glen Davis, not let Glen Davis be something they think he should be."
On media day before the 2010-11 season, Davis openly complained about the lack of a defined role in Boston, suggesting marquee offseason additions in recent seasons (Rasheed Wallace, Jermaine O'Neal) left him in constant flux and without a specific position. Coach Doc Rivers fired back by suggesting Davis shut his mouth and do what the team asked him to do.
Davis responded by earning consideration for Sixth Man of the Year with his versatility. The Celtics employed Davis at both power forward and center, Rivers doing all he could to bring Davis off the bench in order to maximize his ability to play both spots. Besides career-high production in most major statistical categories, Davis topped the league in charges drawn and finished third in total offensive fouls drawn.
But he struggled mightily late in the season and into the playoffs, when he seemed to be looking at the sideline after each missed basket or blown defensive assignment.
Rivers, never shy to implore a little tough love on Davis, hinted after the season that he thought Davis might have been weighed down by his impending free agency. Davis jabbed back a bit Monday.
"I don't try to pay attention," Davis said. "I know Doc talks a lot. I don't pay attention to that. That's what he does. That's Doc, he loves to talk."
Davis added that he's had little communication with Rivers and said he's only spoken with Danny Ainge once, noting the Celtics president of basketball operations is focused on this week's NBA draft.
Boston's ability to haul in an impact big man in this year's draft, might affect how aggressive it will be in pursuing Davis this offseason. Having spent his first four NBA seasons with the Celtics, the team -- new CBA willing -- will have full Larry Bird Rights to Davis and can re-sign him at a modest raise despite being over the salary cap due to current provisions that encourage teams to re-sign their own free agents.
But Davis, who earned $3 million last season, might command more than what Boston can offer on the open market and it's unlikely the Celtics would utilize the mid-level exception -- again, new CBA willing -- to win a bidding war for Davis' services.
Davis made it clear after Boston's season ended in Miami that he envisions himself as a starter, and one can interpret his remarks Monday as suggesting that such a role would allow him to flourish in a way that won't leave him questioning himself. While the undersized Davis spent the most floor time this past season with Boston's Big Four of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the team doesn't envision him as a pure starting center.
Even still, it's likely the Celtics will only have the veteran's minimum available to attract prospective big-man free agents, which means re-signing Davis could still be a high priority if they can convince him to maintain a bench role. The market might dictate his desire to do that.
More importantly, Davis might simply need a clean break from Boston. His mental resolve has been questioned, including a time after he got emotional during a bench incident with Garnett during a national ESPN broadcast in December 2008, to repeated jabs with Rivers through the media (even if most were of the playful nature). Davis also missed the first 27 games of the 2009-10 season after needing surgery to repair his broken right thumb suffered in an early morning fight with a childhood friend the day before the season opener.
Davis' comments Monday simply reiterated what he said after Game 5 against the Heat when he noted, "I want to be a player in this league. I feel like I've got a lot more to offer. I want to show the world my talents, if it's here in Boston, or wherever."
Until the NBA determines its own future, Davis won't find any peace of mind that will come with determining where he'll showcase those talents next.
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.