SACRAMENTO – Officially, Glen “Big Baby’’ Davis is listed at 6 foot, 9 inches tall, but truth be told he says he’s just a shade over 6-foot-7.
While that’s not exactly the right height to play center in the NBA, that’s the chore that Davis has been charged with now for the short-handed Orlando Magic.
The team is without starting center Nikola Vucevic, who suffered a concussion earlier in the week in Los Angeles, and Davis is making the switch from his natural position of power forward to center. Despite giving up several inches in height, Davis is Orlando’s most logical choice to start because of his combination of scoring and toughness.
Davis will have his work cut out for him Friday night when the Magic (10-25) face the Sacramento Kings (11-22) at Sleep Train Arena. Mercurial Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins has blossomed into an all-star candidate this season while averaging 23.5 points and 11.5 rebounds a game. The 6-foot-11, 270-pounder presents plenty of challenges for Davis because of his ability to score with his back to the basket and facing the basket.
“I just have to go out there and compete because Marcus has brought his team up to another level,’’ Davis said. “As a team, collectively, we have to play together and make sure that he limit (Cousins) and his points. I just have to make sure that we bright the fight.’’
Sacramento beat the Magic 105-100 in Orlando on Dec. 4 by using a game-turning fourth-quarter run. The Magic led by two going into the final period, but Sacramento took control of the game with an 18-4 spurt. Cousins battered the Magic inside with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while long-time Magic killer Marcus Thornton scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter.
“The message is to be disciplined to play a 48-minute game and know that teams are going to make runs and it’s about how you handle the runs,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “In that space where you have to handle a run, was it up to that (opposing) team or was it something you did offensively or defensively?’’
Orlando played extremely well in Portland on Wednesday night, leading by 12 points at one point of the first half and holding a four-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. The strong effort eventually dissolved into a 110-94 loss, but Vaughn felt there were positives to take out of the game moving forward.
Vucevic, Orlando’s steadiest rebounding and post presence all season, landed head-first on the floor in Los Angeles on Monday and suffered a concussion. He was sent back to Orlando with a team doctor on Thursday for further tests and rest.
It is Vucevic’s second concussion in 11 months. He is now subject to the NBA’s concussion protocol and will have to pass a series of tests before he is allowed to resume practicing and then playing.
That means the Magic will have to use Davis as their starter at center for the time being. He had a difficult time even slowing down Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge, who drilled 16 of 25 shots and scored 36 points on Wednesday night. In that case, like Friday night in Sacramento, Davis was giving away at least three inches in height to the opposing center.
Davis tries to make up for what he lacks in height with his strength and toughness down low. He’s been an elite low-post defender for years, but that was when he was guarding power forwards. He said there will be no excuses made about having to guard taller players and he expects himself to get stops in the post and be a defensive anchor for the Magic.
“That’s the type of player that I am. I’m going to battle every night,’’ Davis said. “I’m not the tallest guy, but I have to use what I have. I have to use my strength and width. Every night is a dogfight in the NBA and I just have to keep fighting.’’
Several Magic players pointed out their admiration for Davis playing out of position and battling inside against players significantly taller than him. Davis said he wants his teammates to know that they can count on his to stop his man in the post.
“I just try to do my part. That’s one of my characteristics, making sure that we compete and hold our own in the paint,’’ Davis said.