This is finally shaping up to be the team Baron Davis thought it would be when he left the Warriors two years ago and signed with the Clippers. But will the Clippers see the Baron Davis they thought they were getting when they gave him five years and $65 million? That's what everyone wants to know.
He reported to camp out of shape and dragging a strained calf and sore knee. That was a red flag for a player whose stay with the Clippers has been marked by conditioning, injury and motivation issues. The organization wasn't thrilled about the latest development, either, although they responded with restraint. The last thing a new coach needs is a prickly relationship with Davis, the voice of the locker room. That's a no-win situation.
Still, Vinny Del Negro, on the first day of drills, mentioned how the team had "certain standards" for fitness. And Davis, who evidently let his Jenny Craig subscription run out, took the message well. Everyone exhaled and moved on. He's back on the floor, all is forgiven, and soon we'll see if Davis has changed along with his surroundings.
"When the season comes," he vowed, "I'll be ready."
How could he not be? Blake Griffin is healthy and looking beastly in the preseason. And Davis has other teammates to run with, throw to and win with. Yes, win. Not saying the Clippers will be the best NBA team in town. Far from it. But if Davis brings it like he did with the Warriors -- and admittedly that's a big if -- then maybe the Clips can reach the postsea ... well, cancel that thought. It took 50 wins just to make the playoffs last year in the Western Conference. And the Clippers aren't anywhere near that.
But Davis could help welcome a degree of optimism for the franchise. Let's say that much.
Donald Sterling doesn't write big checks easily, but he did for Davis, making him the highest-paid point guard the Clippers ever had. It made sense at the time, because the Clippers needed a co-star for Elton Brand. Although, before the ink dried on Davis' deal, they had no Brand. He bolted for Philly, leaving Davis high and dry. And Davis wasn't thrilled about leaving a playoff team in Golden State for a Clippers' team coming off a 23-win season and without Brand. Who would be?
It showed. His heart wasn't in it. His head seemed elsewhere. That first season was a wash, especially when nagging injuries kept Davis out of 17 games. Davis was among the point guard elite before he signed, but didn't play like a member anymore. His shooting percentage fell from 42 to 37, his scoring from 21 to 14, and his bottom lip fell even further.
Davis rallied a bit last season, playing 75 games and raising his performance across the board. Not only did he play, he competed hard. But at times he shot recklessly, trying to rescue a team with limited options. And the Clippers won 29 games and were troubled by front office turbulence involving Mike Dunleavy, ousted as coach and later, as general manager, too.
But these aren't those Clippers anymore (we think, with fingers crossed). Chris Kaman is coming off an All-Star season. Griffin, the life of the Draft party two summers ago before being KO'd by knee surgery, will compete for Rookie of the Year. Eric Gordon played for Team USA last summer and seems much more poised. Al-Farouq Aminu could log heavy minutes as a rookie. It's a young team, a fragile one in some spots and a team that didn't score big in free agency (LeBron a Clipper? Ha!), but likely the best since Davis came to L.A. And it's a team that needs the kind of veteran touch and clutch play that made the Clippers sign Davis in the first place.
Can he be that player again? Well, yes, absolutely. It's all about where his head and motivation lie. It's never been a question of talent or skill with Davis. He's whip smart, owns a killer crossover and passes as well as anyone in the game. Plus, he doesn't shrink in big moments. But only once since 2002 has he played all 82 games (no thanks to a back injury), and at 31 years old with 12 seasons of tread, conditioning becomes much more important for players like him. That's why the Clippers were alarmed when Davis reported heavy and limped into camp. Since they can't trade him easily (two more years at $28 million), they must find a way to flush out whatever peak years he has left.
You get the sense, if nothing else, that Griffin will rejuvenate Davis, if he hasn't already. In his first preseason action, Davis found Griffin on a pretty alley-oop, and later said: "My job is to make his life easy."
Yes, Griffin will wake up this team. So what about Davis?
Shaun Powell is a veteran NBA writer and columnist. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
Source:nba.com.ph where it amazing