One of the few good things about the lockout has been NBATV. Not their sometimes one-sided coverage of the lockout. That was sometimes painful to sit through. I am talking about the hours of old NBA games the network aired. Sun Sports joined the fun in airing Magic Classics, a set of classic games mostly from the inaugural season.
There was a day on NBATV a few weeks ago that was dedicated to the 1995 Magic.
I was a little too young to remember the exact details of the day-to-day action of the 1995 team. Most of my memories are good ones as the team was always winning and had that deep Playoff run. It is hard for Magic fans to say anything bad about that squad. Watching those games again, you can see there was something special brewing in that team.
And when you watch the 1995 team and compare them to earlier versions of the Magic, you can see there was a grit missing. Some intangible quality was not there.
It is easy to say Horace Grant provided all of that. He was, after all, a three-time champion and All Star when he signed in Orlando in 1995. And Grant seemed to bring that experience with him by osmosis. The results certainly suggested that.
When you watch Grant play on those teams though, you can see Grant actually willing rebounds to teammates, digging out loose balls and taking on the defender. He was a skilled offensive player — that top of the key shot was absolutely deadly — and a gritty defensive player. He provided all the toughness, hustle and leadership the team needed to leap from up-and-coming to championship-contending.
I have long believed that the Magic needed a player like this to provide some of the hammer and get in the players’ ears about continuing to push forward for the team and not being complacent. A player with championship experience, who has been to the top and knows what it takes, is a valuable resource to any team. This is my often-referred to Horace Grant Theory.
Glen Davis is not Horace Grant. Grant was a six-year starter in the league with championships when he came to Orlando. He averaged more than 12.0 points per game in each year of his career from his second year until the lockout-shortened 1999 season. Grant was a workhorse and solid, consistent player.
Davis is not that player. At least not on the court. His career average is at 7.6 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, a 52.4 percent career true shooting percentage, and an 11.2 percent total rebound rate. His career PER is 12.8 and last year he really struggled with injuries and had a 5.2 PER. Nobody is confusing Davis with Grant any time soon.
Off the court though? Davis has something no other player on the Magic has. He has a championship and a major role in winning that championship too. Even though he just joined the team less than a week ago, he made his leadership presence felt early on in practice, as Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reports:
“On Tuesday, after his first Orlando Magic practice, Davis started talking as his teammates and coaches huddled at midcourt. He told the rookies to look up the word “family” in the dictionary and prepare to make a presentation about it before the next workout.
“‘It sets the tone for the year, and it’s a motto that we have to live by,’ Davis said. ‘We’ve always got to protect each other. You know families. A family’s going to get into arguments, a family’s going to get into fights. But they’re going to be there for each other.’”
It is hard to foresee what impact Davis is going to have. He is not an All Star and he will have a very specific role to fill on this team. His success on the court will be judged by what he can provide in that role.
Off the court, it is going to be moments like this and some of the lessons he can share from his time playing at the very top with the Celtics. He has two Finals appearances, that is more than anyone else in the roster.
Davis is not going to fill this role completely. But it is clear that he is willing to share that experience and help show the team what it takes to get to the top of the mountain. It won’t be a quiet leadership for sure. Davis is not quite known for being quiet or serious all the time. And only time will tell if players actually follow Davis — as a non-star, it is sometimes more difficult to get other teammates to follow you.
He is off to a good start so far though. Maybe this last ditch effort will make the team more consistent and help it realize its potential.