Glen Davis takes many for the team
Celtics big man sacrifices his body by taking team-high 19 charges
Charge No. 14 made Glen Davis wonder, for a fleeting moment, if it was worth it.
Over the first two weeks of the 2010-11 season, Davis had selflessly given up his body while absorbing blows from an All-Star roster of talent, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook and Ben Wallace, totaling 13 charges through eight games. But as he sprawled on the floor in Dallas after Caron Butler's knee plunged into his groin, earning his 14th charge taken of the season after stepping up along the baseline, Davis couldn't help but wonder if there was a better way to earn a reputation around the league.
"All of them hurt, not one of them doesn't hurt," Davis explained later. When asked if any of the charges were not worth the trouble, the Butler collision sprang to his mind. "Only one -- when I almost got hit in the gonads. Other than that, everyone's worth it."
Despite the pain, which forced him to leave the floor shortly before halftime against the Mavericks, Davis hasn't stopped stepping up when an opposing player storms the lane. Davis boasts a 12-game charge-taken streak to open the season. With seven two-charge games in that span, he's rewriting a record book that doesn't exist with 19 total charges taken through Friday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Consider this: The Celtics have taken a total of 26 charges as a team and only Jermaine O'Neal (two) has also recorded multiple charges. It took Davis roughly 20 minutes of floor time to get his first two charges, making two-thirds of the Miami Thrice (James and Wade) his first two victims on opening night.
Since then, he's adding names to his hit list an alarming pace. The unofficial Baby's Victim list includes: Wade (twice), Westbrook (twice), James Harden (twice), Butler, James, Wallace, Ramone Sessions, J.J. Hickson, Wilson Chandler, Ben Gordon, Ersan Ilyasova, Drew Gooden, Luol Deng, James Johnson, Zach Randolph and Andray Blatche.
Maybe Ray Allen summarized Davis' production best by saying simply, "I believe we do need to start adding the charge to the stat sheet."
Unfortunately, the NBA does not officially track charges, nor does Elias Sports Bureau. Numbers exist in recent seasons for the total number of offensive fouls drawn, but even those numbers appear flawed if you compare game tape to what's reported in the official box scores that the data is parsed from.
Davis' unprecedented start to the season has drawn more attention to every charge he's taken and launched the rally to have charges become an official NBA metric. Until then, he's at the mercy of his own team's stats keeper.
"We keep [track of charges], so it's an official stat in our locker room," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose staff logs other unofficial stats, such as deflections. "That's good enough."
Davis described how, for him, the key is being able to shuffle to a spot outside the circle, establish position, brace for impact and thrust his hands skyward hoping to avoid getting tagged with a blocking foul. Every ounce of emotion you see as he hits the floor is genuine and he decries any sort of flopping.
"It's not fake," said Davis, who said it took about a week to remove the sting from one of the James charges. "Think about it, someone is running straight through you."
Watching Davis describe his art in the locker room is entertaining. His face contorts in a wild array of emotions, from a wide-eyed stare as he braces for impact, to the grimace that follows as bodies collide.
Rivers admits there's no way to practice charges, either.
"It's tough, you did [practice charges] in college and high school, and I always thought it was a silly drill," said Rivers. "In high school, they'd line guys up and you'd sit there and take charges. I used to think, 'What a stupid drill this is.' But I did it because you had to.
"You can talk about it and guys do take them in practice, but not as much. We do talk about taking charges. It does a lot, it's just like a blocked shot in the way that, when you take one, the guy knows you're going to be there the next time and he thinks about not driving. So it does have a great affect on the other team."
That helps explain how Boston offsets the fact that it's 29th in the league in blocked shots (3.1 per game; only Cleveland is worse). Davis adds nearly two "blocks" per game with his body and, what's more, it's a blocked shot that guarantees your team gains possession because of the turnover attached to any charge drawn.
Given the fact that Boston's frontcourt has been decimated by injuries this season -- Jermaine O'Neal is out 2-3 weeks with lingering soreness in his left knee, while Semih Erden (left shoulder) and Shaquille O'Neal (right knee) are playing through pain -- there's a line of thought that suggests Davis needs to be careful about sacrificing his body moving forward. After all, Jermaine O'Neal tore cartilage in his left wrist taking a charge in a preseason game in Toronto earlier this year.
It's a risky activity, but one that doesn't go unappreciated in the Celtics' locker room.
"It has to help [inspire teammates]," said Rivers. "You're giving yourself up to the team when you take a charge. We say, with Baby, he's not going to block a lot of shots, but he can block a lot of bodies. He's doing that and we preach it, we talk about it and we show it on a lot of tapes. Whenever a guy gets a charge, it's good for team morale."
In fact, the fable of the Chicken and the Pig has become popular in Boston's locker room with its focus on commitment to a project.
Though many variations of the tale exist, the fable centers on the chicken and the pig working together in some sort of restaurant (or breakfast-themed) venture. The chicken provides the eggs, but it's merely a contribution because the chicken can simply lay eggs; the pig must endure complete sacrifice because it gives up its body to produce the bacon.
"A charge is giving up your body, sacrificing for the team," said Allen. "One of the philosophies is, 'Who sacrifices more, the chicken or the pig?' When you give up a charge, the pig is definitely that guy. He gives up his whole body for everybody else."
When a group of confused journalists stared blankly at Allen following his fable reference, he humorously clarified, "I'm not calling Glen a pig. But he does give up his body. He sacrifices a lot and that's definitely valuable. I've played with great shot-blockers before, but nobody that was able to get to that position and give up his body."
Sacrifice is a familiar word around the Celtics. It's the same philosophy that governs why someone like Shaquille O'Neal would come to Boston, giving up the superstar role he enjoyed his first 18 years in the NBA with hopes of winning another title.
In his fourth year in the league -- and a contract year, no less -- Davis is embracing a sixth-man role with Boston (particularly because, given his age and versatility, he's still the most frequent center on the court, logging a whopping 30 minutes per game, tops among reserves in the league). Like many in the Boston locker room, he knows he could potentially start on other teams, but he gets many of the same benefits here, and this is his greatest chance at another world title.
Davis is willing to give up his body to help the other 11 players in the locker room earn that same goal. Even if it means enduring a few knees in the groin along the way.
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.