The Boston Celtics know a good thing when they see it. That’s basically how the Big 3 came to be. It’s also how Danny Ainge wound up with a point guard from Kentucky, a former bench that could perhaps rival that of the Cleveland Cavaliers starting roster (ouch), and a little known player called Larry Bird, or something like that.
It’s also how the Celtics won their seventeenth NBA Championship in 2008. It’s also how the Celtics triumphed in last year’s Finals series against the Lakers, but lucked out thanks to Kendrick Perkins’ crummy knee injury.
And finally, it’s also how Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis was signed in 2007. That’s before he became the Celtics biggest problem not named “age” in recent memory.
When Danny Ainge originally swapped Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Oklahoma City Thunder late in the regular season, I hated it. To me it was as equally foolish as LeBron’s hour decision making process on ESPN, only, although the Celtics seemed to appear significantly worse overnight in comparison to the Heat. At the time, it was like dropping a 50 pound weight on my foot before being asked to run a marathon. The pain of watching Boston’s team grow drastically weaker was almost tasteless after a few solid years of winning, but it was a reality check that most Celtics fans needed in the long run.
Yet that reality check clearly caused more harm than good. It forced an obviously talented Jeff Green to play out of his comfort zone, a noticeable problem when he shot for just 7.3 points per game in the playoffs. It forced the Celtics starters to sweat it out for an entire four quarters, rather than subbing in their usually dependable bench while laughing towards what would normally be a fairly straightforward victory. And finally, it seemed to hurt Big Baby a little — or more like, a lot — both emotionally and physically.
If time tells all, Big Baby hasn’t been his usual self for a very long time. In terms of work ethic, he’s still the determined player he always was. But in terms of production and reliability, his ongoing live play of ‘How Not to Hit the Basket’ in the playoffs, was ugly to say the least.
Perhaps none of that would matter though if Big Baby was playing solid defense. That has been the core of this Celtic team for the past three to four years, after all. But even that seems to have gone by the wayside as far as Davis is concerned, a skill that used to earn him the honor of the NBA’s Best Sixth Man award.
There’s other problems that need addressing, too. Right now, Baby has the mental age of a new coffee table. He often gives away fouls like he’s playing his own game of Hack-a-Shaq with his imaginary friend, (oh, and it’s not like the referees need any further encouragement to blow the whistle these days). While also, Davis is a little immature. In fact, you’d have an easier time predicting the weather than say, predicting Davis’ thought process.
Of course, all of this criticism surrounding Big Baby could be labeled as borderline absurd if you look at either side of the cube. In crunch time, Davis is, and never was, expected to carry the team on his shoulders. That job falls to Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, or to a more severe extent, Ray Allen. Then again, Davis is expected to hit clutch baskets, shut down key defenders such as Dwyane Wade when they launch themselves at the basket, and most importantly, stand up as one of the Celtics starting leaders.
But in agreement with all of that, maybe that’s all Davis wants. Maybe he wants to be a leader, yet he can’t do that in Boston with the Big 3 still ruling the roost. Whether or not he has the skills do entirely fill out a jersey someplace else is a wild guess for anyone to take, mind you.
Davis’ dream to become a leader makes perfect sense, too. Big Baby is a free agent sometime this summer, and his contract will be a hot topic throughout the league as one of the NBA’s top youngpower forwards/centers. A lot of people would happily slap a dunce hat on the Celtics right now if they were to begin trading key players, but there’s no looking past the fact that Boston needs a guy who can shoot, and as much as Celtics fans appreciate his physicality, asking fans to forgive both Rondo and Davis for missing open jumpers is a little ambitious.
In 2010, Davis averaged 11.7 points per game. Those were well rounded stats for a guy who once suited the underlying role beneath the Big 3. Now, though, Davis wants to be a starter, and it’s hard to say that the Celtics will offer him that luxury anytime soon.
Realistically, Boston could play the game of hard bargain if they really wanted to. It’s likely this situation will be left to curdle up until August — the Celtics will then put in an offer — and don’t be surprised if Big Baby thinks twice but turns it down. In hindsight, that’s okay, however. Boston does have Jermaine O’Neal to call up. That’s about as comforting as ironing your own hands, but still, it’s something.
What isn’t comforting, though, is knowing that this Davis situation is going to cause the Celtics some grief. The free agent market — if you can even call it that — isn’t exactly booming right now, and nor is Ainge’s overall interest in signing a young (or old) center/power forward — at least at this moment.
Speaking of Ainge by the way, for all of the heckling he received after the Perkins/Robinson Houdini stunt, it may just work out after all. The Celtics will be left with a younger, much maturer, shooter in Jeff Green. And maybe — if you’re optimistic that is — Ainge saw this Big Baby debacle coming a mile away. Let’s not forget Nenad Krstic either.
Boston needs to part ways with Big Baby not because he had a slump in the playoffs. Every player goes through that. Instead, Boston needs to part ways with Big Baby because this is an old team, with a pinch of youth, that is building bridges and railway lines for the future. That doesn’t mean you can go ahead and write the Celtics off next season — if you did that, I’d wonder what league you’ve been watching. But Boston and Big Baby are at separate ends, and it’s during a time where the Celtics are in need of team players.
That doesn’t mean the Celtics will sign some big name free agent who tops your fantasy list, or Dwight Howard for that matter. You have to beat the Lakers to the buzzer for that to happen. It does mean, though, that for once, since 2007 perhaps, Boston will be severely interested in free agency.
Follow Ryan Cook on Twitter.