There is a big hole in Orlando's lineup. Just about everyone will remind you about it. The five-game losing streak Orlando is suffering through is (perhaps) coincidentally matching the time since Glen Davis suffered a strained shoulder.
To that point, Davis was puting in a career season in averaging a career-best 16.0 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game. His scoring and rebounding numbers are at career bests per 36 minutes despite the increase in playing time. And his field goal percentage is at 44.9 percent, which is better than many expected when considering the roster and how much more of the ball he would see (25.7 percent usage rate).
Davis very much was the emotional core for the Magic and one of its rising leaders. He was showing signs of maturity in both his actions and in his play. Approximately one-third of Davis' shots occur at the rim and more than half come within 10 feet. After a season where he took 28.9 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet, Davis has taken only 26.2 percent of his shots from that distance. It is not way down, but it is down.
He was becoming a better player, then it all came crashing down with his injury which will sideline him for at least four weeks, if not more. Davis' career season was halted and any growth he had made stopped, along with hurting the Magic's chances on the floor.
"We miss him a lot on both ends of the court," Nikola Vucevic said following Orlando's loss to New Orleans on Dec. 26. "People probably just think on the offensive end because he is our leading scorer or second leading scorer. It’s on both ends of the court. He plays well on both ends and gives us a lot of energy.
"We miss him, but it’s not an excuse. He’s not going to be here for I don’t know how long. We’ve got to find a way to win without him."
The Magic are still slowly figuring out how to do that part without Davis — although they lost those first four games by a combined 17 points and had a chance to win in the final two minutes in every game until the loss to the Wizards and the blowout loss to the Raptors. Getting a player like Hedo Turkoglu back from injury and back into the rotation will surely help replace some of the offense missed.
Glen Davis though is still a part of the team in spirit if not physically. He is beginning to join his team courtside at home games and the Magic did not officially deactivate Davis until Saturday's game against the Raptors.
Being a leader, like Davis views himself, does not end when he is off the court. That appeared to be the message when he met with the media earlier this week. David told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel that he is working and preparing on how to respond to the injury and come back ready to hit the ground running.
Easier said than done. Davis is focused on rehabbing and using his "Superman powers" as he told John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com to get back as soon as possible. But his words of encouragement should serve to help those that filling in for Davis too:
You want to seize the opportunities that you have in this league because it goes by fast. This is a year for me to step into the role that I’ve always wanted and I’ve just got a little setback. It (stinks), but sometimes you just have to accept the way of life sometimes. It’s a curveball. I’ve worked hard to get to where I’m doing what I do now for the team and I’m going to stay with a positive mind-frame and get my rehab done and get back as soon as I can.
In the five games since Davis was injured, Nikola Vucevic has had to step into that center role. He is averaging 13.4 points per game and 11.4 rebounds per game while shooting 57.4 percent from the floor. Gustavo Ayon has posted 6.6 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game and Andrew Nicholson has averaged 7.6 points per game and 2.8 rebounds per game.
Of couse with the added minutes, these players have increased their per game production. Between these three players, the post players for the Magic are averaging 27.6 points per game and 21.4 rebounds per game. Davis and Vucevic alone average 26.5 points per game and 17.7 rebounds per game.
Quite clearly, Orlando is still missing a lot statistically with Davis out of the lineup.
Ish Smith though suggested it might be a bit more after Saturday's loss saying Davis is the team's emotional leader and covering up a lot of the team's mistakes defensively.
"I don’t think you really realize how big of an effect Baby is – sometimes he might score 12 points and get 11 rebounds, but defensively and emotionally he covers up so much out there," Smith said. "We didn’t know, I’m sure nobody knew, but we’re going to have to make it up and get it done."
Davis' absence also is evident in late game situations. Jacque Vaughn said following the loss to the Hornets that the team has a package of plays involving Davis that it is extremely comfortable with and davis' ability to draw fouls is also important for the Orlando offense.
So what can Davis do now?
His role really does not change. He just is not there to lead by example. Davis still has to be in the ear of the young players instructing them where to be and helping them correct their mistakes. If Davis wants to truly become a leadero n this team, he has to become like another coach in the locker room.
These were some of the things Vaughn pointed out back in late November as part of Davis' growth into a leader while he was playing.
"I think example wise in practice, just being able to embrace a young guy and explain to them why they need to come over to this side of the paint or how they need to close out or how far up the lane they need to be," Vaughn said in late November before the game against the Celtics. "Taking the time to do it and continually doing it. It’s something that occurs frequently which is good."
If Davis has continued to do that and continues to do that, he will continue his maturation into a leader and still make a big impact for the Magic even when he is not playing.