Friday, December 9, 2011
Don't cry for Big Baby
By Peter May
BOSTON -- And now there are four.
With Friday's departure of Glen Davis, the Celtics now have four holdovers from their 2008 title team: the Big Three and Rajon Rondo. And while no one Friday was shedding any tears, crocodile or otherwise, over Big Baby's absence, it simply won't be the same without him.
Simply, he was entertaining. He called himself The Ticket Stub when he was subbing for Kevin Garnett (aka The Big Ticket). Last year, he pleaded with everyone to call him "Uno Uno" instead of Big Baby. Didn't happen. He brought us one-half of the Shrek and Donkey Show with Nate Robinson during the 2010 playoffs -- and had more than a few highlight performances in his four years as a Celtic.
I will always remember Game 2 of the 2010 Miami series, when he destroyed the Heat (23 points, 8 rebounds), which prompted the following from the Heat's head coach, Erik Spoelstra: "That's a case of one man impacting the game simply with his effort. I don't think they ran one play for him. You cannot let a man's effort exceed yours. It's as simple as that."
He could play. We all saw that. He knew the game. He had fabulous footwork. He took charges. Boy, did he take charges. He made the game winner against Orlando in Game 4 of the 2009 playoffs, subbing for the injured Garnett. He torched the Heat again in last year's season opener (13 points, 5 rebounds) and then said, "Doc [Rivers] must have said something good about me."
He just didn't do all of the above with enough consistency to convince president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers that he was a certifiable keeper. And he was, well, a mental work in progress. There's a reason why he never could get rid of that nickname.
"Baby was Baby," Rivers was saying Friday. "You know, kind of like Manny being Manny? He was young."
So, yes, there was a bit of a high-maintenance component to the Baby Picture, a situation which made it that much easier for the Celtics to say adieu to the likable lug. Much to Rivers' chagrin, Davis openly wondered last season about his role on the team when it was clear to everyone that it was going to be exactly what it had been the previous two years. He wanted to start and that wasn't going to happen here. He should get that opportunity in Orlando. He wanted more money and years than the Celtics were willing to give. He will get that in Orlando.
"It'll be different," Rivers said. "Baby was terrific for us. He really was. We talked [Friday] and it will be different. We had a very good conversation, a very emotional conversation -- when it's with Baby, it's always emotional. But it was good emotion. I wish him well."
His teammates pretty much accepted the deal as yet another reminder that the B in NBA should stand for "business." No one openly lamented his absence, possibly because there was a general feeling that Davis played out of his role late last season in what looked to be a transparent contract run. Shaquille O'Neal, in his latest oeuvre, said there were a couple of incidents where Davis wouldn't get him the ball and Diesel threatened to punch Baby in the face.
Ray Allen called the situation "odd," but mainly because he didn't know a lot of the guys at practice, not because Davis wasn't there. "You just pick up and keep moving," he said.
Rondo, who had heard his name mentioned almost every day in Chris Paul rumors, cracked, "I didn't hear [Davis'] name mentioned in any trade rumors." Rondo said he had learned of Davis' departure only a few hours before the Celtics' first practice. Rondo and Davis had been teammates on a USA Basketball team that played in a U-21 tournament in Argentina and were teammates as Celtics for four years. But they were never close. Still, Rondo surmised, "I could be one of those [traded] guys. I still might be."
Eerily, the Celtics are getting almost a Baby Clone (they are hoping for Baby 2.0) in Brandon Bass, who has similar stats but is not as wide a body. As long as the Celtics had Davis, they had themselves a guy who could give you decent backup minutes at the 4-5 position. They had someone who knew the system and could play it well when the spirit moved him.
That man is gone -- and the health-challenged Jermaine O'Neal is the Celtics' only legitimate NBA center. The Celtics are hoping Chris Wilcox will be that man. He may play it as well, or even better, than Glen Davis did. But he's going to be nowhere near as much fun.
"I don't know what you guys are going to cover," Rivers said, "because there will be less news for sure."
|Glen Davis' act was always a lot of fun to watch, but it has run its course in Boston.
Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.