Glen "Big Baby" Davis takes one charge too many. The 6-foot-9 power forward did just that in Sunday’s matinee win over the Orlando Magic, slamming the back of his head against the TD Garden floor after absorbing the impact from a driving Jameer Nelson.
Charge No. 39 on the season for the league leader in that category.
But this one cost him, appearing at first to have concussed the former LSU Tiger. Baby was guided to the locker room for tests while head coach Doc Rivers was no doubt figuring out how to stop a hot Dwight Howard with one of his best defenders ostensibly out for the game.
Minutes later came surprising word from the Celtics’ training staff: Baby was OK. A mere bruised head — no concussion.
The crowd delighted when Davis returned early in the second quarter and he did not disappoint, logging 11 points, six rebounds and two steals through the remainder of the game, which Boston took handily, 91-80.
It was a far cry from where the fourth-year player began his NBA career. Picked fifth in the second round of the 2007 NBA draft, Davis managed 4.5 points in 14 minutes per game in his rookie campaign, developing quietly in the very large shadow cast by Kevin Garnett and the soon-to-be NBA champions.
A year later, Boston fans were shocked and sickened to see their second-year reserve big man crying on the bench in a December game after getting an earful from mentor Garnett.
But in February of that second year, KG, the very man who had made Baby cry, came up limping after an alley-oop attempt against the Utah Jazz, an injury that sidelined him for the playoffs — and suddenly cast Davis into a starting role.
He was sterling, averaging 16 points, six boards and better than a steal per game in 14 postseason tilts, ultimately helping the Celtics sneak by Chicago in Round 1. In Round 2? Boston fell in seven games to the healthier Orlando Magic. Baby’s heroics in place of the Big Ticket, in turn, were largely forgotten.
When he decided to test the market in free agency, Davis found few teams willing to offer big contracts and few in Boston who were clamoring for Celtics president of operations Danny Ainge to resign him.
So Davis, perhaps a bit embarrassed, slinked back to the table with Ainge in the summer of 2009 and hammered out a deal for about $6 million over two years — which makes him, by the way, an unrestricted free agent again after this season.
Then came the infamous broken thumb suffered by Davis in October of 2009 (two days before the season opener) during a fist fight with a friend. He underwent surgery and was suspended by the team for sheer stupidity. Deeming him a pariah at that point would be an understatement.
"We’ll deal with it," team owner Wyc Grousbeck said at the time, noting Davis might have been in violation of his contract. "I’m not going to call him 'Big Baby' anymore. He's Glen. He needs to act like Glen. We’ll decide what to do once I talk to him."
But Davis worked hard to return by Christmas and it was from there that both Davis and Boston’s perception of him began to change.
With KG back for the 2009-10 season, Big Baby saw fewer minutes but made the most of them, posting career highs in scoring, rebounding and blocks per 48 minutes. He revolutionized his role, taking charges and hitting the offensive boards more often.
By the playoffs, he was a fan favorite, eventually becoming Shrek to Nate Robinson’s Donkey after Game 4 of the NBA Finals, in which Davis logged 18 points, four offensive rebounds and two steals.
"All I'm thinking about is, 'Let's win,'" Davis said after the win. "I'm not thinking about anything else. I'm not even thinking about Kobe [Bryant] making all these shots, worried about this or worried about that. I'm just worried about winning, whatever it takes to win, and just making sure that I give my teammates positive energy to finish out the game."
Boston loved him for it. And this season has been only better.
Baby is posting dramatic career highs in points (12), rebounds (5.2), steals (one), and now this amazing streak of charges drawn. He’s a solid starter when KG needs a rest, infuses energy into the bench as a reserve and has nearly perfected a mid-range jumper that forces defenses to cover him inside and out.
"Everybody labeled me as an overweight guy. People think I'm too big; people think a lot of negative things about me," Davis said a few weeks ago after a stint of starting for a then-injured Garnett. "So I always have the motivation when I play, in spite of what other people say. I just try to go out there and play my game."
He said at the beginning of this season that he was playing for both the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award and a second NBA Championship. At the rate he's going, Glen Davis could very well get both.