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The tie that binds has been severed in Orlando, as the Magic agreed to a buyout with the much-maligned power forward Glen Davis after the trade deadline had passed. Big Baby was under contract for $6.4 million this season and was set to earn $6.6 million next season.
Although the details of the buyout were not disclosed, it’s clear that no price was too steep to free this young team from the cloud that Davis had cast over the organization.
All in all, Davis is a fine basketball player. He’s not very efficient on offense, largely due to his propensity for the long twos that drove Magic fans insane in recent years, but he’s a solid defensive player.
When he’s happy, he certainly has value, and a contender such as the Los Angeles Clippers will look to add Davis for frontcourt depth and whatever nebulous “championship experience” he might bring from his time with former coach Doc Rivers in Boston.
The issue for Davis and Orlando? He’s been anything but content with the losing and, at times, aimless progress of a rebuild. His stint with the Celtics, along with his first year in Orlando, conditioned Big Baby to a certain level of success. When the bottom fell out, he was in no condition to play the good soldier.
That by no means excuses everything that’s gone wrong for Davis as a member of the Magic, however. Quite the contrary. A player with his exposure to the necessity of veteran leadership and locker room chemistry should have been capable of instilling the right mindset and work ethic in the younger players. Instead, Davis has been a tempest inside a volcano inside a pressure cooker, ready to explode on keyboards and sulk on the hardwood.
Yet coach Jacque Vaughn had to make the best of a bad situation, and that often involved playing Davis. If Big Baby seemed a malcontent while garnering regular minutes, the thought of his destructive wake had he been benched clearly chilled the imagination of the Magic organization. The threat of a full scale mutiny, coupled with young bigs still learning the nuances of playing professionally, meant far more minutes for Davis than would seem wise for a team in Orlando’s position.
Such risk is now a thing of the past, and Davis’ departure opens the door wide and clear for the likes of Tobias Harris, Kyle O’Quinn, and Andrew Nicholson. With an additional 30 minutes per game to go around, those three have the most to gain in terms of playing time, growth and exposure.
Vaughn’s trust in veterans means more minutes for Jason Maxiell, in all likelihood, too, so it won’t be all youth movements and summer daises in Orlando.
But the present is about the future for the Magic, and the more they learn about how their three young bigs fit into their plans going forward, the better off they’ll be. Can Harris handle an increased workload at power forward, or is he better off playing the three? How effective can O’Quinn be if he, in turn, can focus on being a backup center full-time? And can Nicholson just get some damn minutes, please?
With Davis’s buyout, there’s no longer any excuse to prolong finding out. Orlando is officially in a new era. For now, it’ll look a lot like the past year or two — development of young talent, some rough times, and eyes toward the horizon. But don’t let the superficial similarities fool you — in the land of the Magic, 2014 is the first year After Davis.