Check out this email my buddy sent me yesterday: Glen Davis is the next Ray Allen.
Okay, so writing that sentence would normally be like writing that Gigli is the next Good Will Hunting, or Vladimir Radmanovic is the next Dirk Nowitzki. But Davis shot so well yesterday the comparison almost made sense. He (Davis, not my buddy) has been shooting well all season long, even if he hasn't been shooting "Ray Allen" well.
Why is Davis suddenly scorching the nets? Partially because Doc Rivers told his sixth man to shoot 1,000 jumpers per day this summer. Depending on who you believe, Davis may actually have launched 5,000 shots per day. Isn't that almost impossible? (Boston Globe)
Before this summer, Rivers told Davis to take 1,000 jumpers per day and even took a trip to Las Vegas to watch in person. ...
Davis is going to bring quirkiness and a fun-loving personality to the table, but his work ethic is unquestioned. He said he took 5,000 shots a day on those sweltering days in Las Vegas, and Rivers nodded in approval.
"Baby, he doesn’t have long arms, and if you remember his first two years, he struggles finishing and still does,’’ Rivers said. "Today he caught Hibbert a couple of times under the basket and couldn’t get to the basket.
"We just told him to take 1,000 shots a day and your game will be from the elbows and the corners. We need you to be efficient offensively and you will be with your jump shot. And he has been."
Whether Big Baby took 5,000 shots per day or "only" 1,000, the point is that he spent the summer dedicated to improvement. Even in Las Vegas, a city to which people travel mostly to party or to gamble, Davis remained focused solely on his game (and, from the sound of it, mostly his jump shot).
Oddly enough, after all that time practicing jump shots, Davis's improvements have been more pronounced near the hoop than outside the paint.
Last year, the Dwight Howards of the world licked their chops when Davis came their way -- wherever Davis travelled, an opponent's shot block would soon follow. Davis led the league in percentage of shots blocked, as opponents redirected 17.9% of his field goal attempts. That, my friends, is bad. The blocks resulted in Davis' 43.7% field goal shooting, which is not too poor for a guard but rather atrocious for a big man. Davis' energy was valuable off the bench, but he was an inefficient and inconsistent scorer.
As Rivers mentioned, Davis doesn't seem long enough, nor athletic enough, to be an elite NBA finisher. There are certain defenders whose length will always bother Davis, whose wide waist and relatively stubby arms hinder him near the hoop. Thus, Rivers' directive to shoot 1,000 jumpers per day. If you can't finish inside, then you might as well learn how to score in other ways. Right?
Right. But while Davis spent all that time hoisting jumpers, something funny happened -- he learned to score in the paint, too. According to HoopData, Davis now shoots 72.7% on field goal attempts at the rim, compared to 51.8% last year. He now gets blocked on only 6.5% of his shots, an enormous improvement since last year. And Davis is doing all that while actually taking more shots at the rim than he did last season.
So why did these improvements occur? For one, Davis is forcing less offense. There were times last year when he isolated from the team's offense, preferring to do his own thing. Not so much this year. Now, he mostly capitalizes on opportunities created in the game's flow, rather than freelancing outside the structured offense. A result is Baby's highest percentage of shots assisted (78.7%) since HoopData began keeping statistics.
Additionally, Davis now uses his strength to his advantage. He doesn't have the length most inside players do, but Davis can power through people. When he leads with the body, Davis can overcome his short arms and lack of vertical leap. And when he uses his body to initiate contact, he is able to create space to release his shots. NBA Playbook's Sebastian Pruiti wrote a nice post about Davis's increased willingness to use his body as a weapon. (And not in the moronic way he once tried to use his body as a weapon, against his own friend, that fateful night a few days before last season's opening night.)
Back in the preseason, Davis touched on the newfound differences in his game. (NESN)
"I'm going into my fourth year," he said. "You go into your rookie year, and you have no clue what you're doing. You go into your second year, you have a little bit of an understanding of what you're doing. You go into your third year, and you kind of know what you're doing.
"But you go into your fourth year, and you know what you're doing." ...
"If you look at every contract, look at every rookie scale, it's four years," Davis said. "Then you hit another level, and you become the player I am now. You really know what you can do in this game. Me as a player, I've grown tremendously with the help of Doc, and being around a lot of veterans. I've come to understand the game more. Being on this team for four years, with the same coach, has most definitely helped me."
Davis's adjustments -- his improved outside shooting, additional patience, and better body usage -- have allowed him to become a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year Award candidate. But even more importantly, his consistency equips the Celtics with an added dimension off the bench, and his versatility has helped the C's survive injuries to every natural center on the roster. The Celtics are 22-4, riding a 13-game winning streak, and Glen Davis is a big reason why.
And Davis' big improvements all started in Las Vegas, this past summer. I knew something was up in July, when I read ESPN's (since-pulled) story about Lebron James' Las Vegas party. In the story, Davis walked by LBJ's party and looked inside at the crazy time. There were "apparently nude women in a bathtub full of water and rose petals," and Davis doesn't exactly seem like someone to turn down an opportunity to party. But he didn't go inside to check out the scene. Instead, he walked right by the extravaganza, shaking his head.
I imagine Davis skipped the party so he could wake up early in the morning and shoot his 1,000 jumpers. Either that, or he just wasn't invited.