On Pro Basketball
LOWELL - Following Boston's Eastern Conference semifinal Game 7 loss to the Orlando Magic in May, free-agent-to-be Celtics forward Glen "Big Baby" Davis could be seen bidding farewell to anyone that would listen, given the real chance it would be his last game with the C's.
But, after an offseason of what he described as challenging negotiations, Big Baby is ready for another campaign in Celtics green, armed with a new two-year deal.
"The situation with the Celtics worked out perfectly," said Davis yesterday after throwing out the first pitch in the Lowell Spinners' 3-1 win over the Brooklyn Cyclones. "Sometimes timing isn't right. But the timing was right to come back to the Celtics. It's the perfect situation."
Davis was selected in the second round of the 2007 NBA draft out of LSU by the now-defunct Seattle SuperSonics and immediately traded to the Celtics as part of the deal that sent Ray Allen to Boston.
As a rookie, Davis impressed at times. He finished the year averaging 4.5 points and three rebounds a game in 69 contests, helping the Celtics to their 17th NBA title. But it was last year that he emerged as a key player.
After averaging seven points and four rebounds a game in the regular season, Big Baby was pressed into key action late in the season as the replacement for injured superstar forward Kevin Garnett. He did not disappoint.
In 14 playoff games, Davis averaged a whopping 15.8 points and 5.6 rebounds a game, including five games of 20 points or more, and a buzzer-beating game-winner against Orlando.
But, once the C's were eliminated from the playoffs by the Magic, Davis faced the uncertainty of free agency.
"It was tough," he said. "You really understand the difference between being with an organization and business. I found out the rough way how things are. But I respect that.
"The tough part is just waiting and feeling discouraged about if the team wanted me or not. That was a big problem."
Big Baby admitted that it was far from a sure thing he would be back with the Celtics. Rumors circulated that teams such as the perennially contending San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks inquired about his services.
"A lot of teams were interested," he said. "But with the (salary) cap, teams didn't want to spend money. Things didn't work out the way we thought with trades and a few things. But, in the end, things worked out perfectly."
On Aug. 10, the Celtics announced the re-signing of the 23-year-old to a two-year deal worth $6.3 million.
Davis, looking trimmer than the 289 pounds he weighed in at a year ago, said that the success of last postseason, and the ups-and-downs of free agency, have made him a better player.
"Big Baby isn't the same Big Baby that you saw in the past and hitting that (game-winning) shot," he said. "It's not the same Big Baby. It's a more advanced, wiser Baby that understands the game more and mentally is a better player."
In addition to re-signing Davis, the Celtics bolstered their frontcourt with the return of Garnett and the signing of temperamental Pistons star forward Rasheed Wallace, a four-time NBA All-Star with a career 15-points-per-game average. Big Baby said he is excited to take the court with the two NBA stalwarts.
"Coming back with KG, you can always learn," he said. "With the addition of Rasheed, I can learn even more and become a great player. I'm all for that. The addition of Rasheed is huge."
With those additions, the presence of stars Paul Pierce and Allen, and emerging Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins back, Big Baby feels confident this team has the tools to win a second title in three years.
"I wanted the chance to win a championship," he said. "Knowing there's a high probability we will be there in the finals is a great feeling. I have already experienced it once, and I want to experience it again.
"Everyone brings a new energy. We didn't repeat, even though we think we should have, even without KG. We feel like this is a championship-caliber team, and we love our depth with guys like Eddie House and Bill Walker off the bench."
Despite bouncing the ceremonial first pitch yesterday, Davis' humorous antics and exaggerated pitching windup were a hit with fans, many of which were sporting Davis' No. 11 Celtics jersey. It further confirmed his status as a bona fide fan-favorite in Boston, a fact already determined by an offseason full of sports talk radio calls demanding Davis be re-signed.
"I think I am safely in the arms of Boston fans," he joked, "as long as they don't see me in a Yankees hat or Steelers (football) jersey. It's fun to be recognized."