Glen Davis hungered to be a leader from the moment the Orlando Magic acquired him last December.
He spoke often, loudly and boldly.
But he discovered words alone weren't enough to earn teammates' respect.
Now, almost a year after he joined the Magic, he thinks he's learned to "walk the walk." Davis has emerged as the team's steadiest player this preseason, and his coach and teammates say they're excited about his contributions off the court, too.
"It's like a whole different world, a whole different person," Davis said Tuesday. "When you've got the organization, as far as the GM, motivating and saying good things as far as 'keep it up,' and you've got so many people behind you, that confidence grows. And you start really believing.
"I've always seen it: One day I will have an opportunity to lead. But I never had that opportunity. Now, the opportunity is here, and the organization and the coaches and the team just keeps feeding that fire. Now, there's a responsibility. You start believing in that character. You start to walk the walk, because it's important."
The Magic need veteran leadership. The new-look roster has nine rookies or second-year players, and many of them — Gustavo Ayón, Justin Harper, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O'Quinn and Nik Vucevic — play Davis' positions of power forward and center.
On Oct. 3, while playing defense on a five-on-five drill, Davis calmly explained to Nicholson some of the nuances about preventing dribble drives.
Coach Jacque Vaughn stood nearby and allowed Davis to continue.
"It's a lot to ask of one individual, but the impressions that I got, he wanted to shoulder that responsibility," Vaughn said. "So I'm going to give it to him."
Davis sought that responsibility last season, and one day, he even asked rookies to prepare presentations on the meaning of "family."
But Davis often undermined his own cause.
He took shots that were well beyond his range early in the season. He sulked when Ryan Anderson beat him out for the starting power forward job. And then-general manager Otis Smith suspended Davis for two games last February after Davis argued during a shootaround with coach Stan Van Gundy.
It was a season full of ups and downs — painful downs that included the deaths of Davis' grandmother and his biological father.
But he reached a turning point after Dwight Howard underwent season-ending back surgery.
Howard's absence made Davis a fulltime starter, and Davis produced. He averaged 19.0 points and 9.2 rebounds during the Magic's postseason series against the Indiana Pacers.
Fans who had booed him started to cheer for him.
Davis seems to revel in his relationship with Vaughn, partly because it gave Davis a clean slate.
"The day I introduced myself to Glen was the day our relationship started," Vaughn said.
Davis looks self-assured on the court these days, averaging 18.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game this month.
"You have to seize the moment," he said.
"I've been around the league for a while now. I've seen a lot of great players play. I've seen what to do and what it takes to win, and I've seen what it doesn't take to win. I've seen it. So I know the dos and don'ts, and it's my opportunity here to seize it, and I'm letting it all hang out."
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.