As the NBA’s trade deadline drew near, the Los Angeles Clippers were said to be interested in acquiring an above-average small forward to immediately plug into the starting lineup.
They didn’t find that guy, but they did make one of the deadline’s most stunning deals.
The Clips shipped former franchise cornerstone Baron Davis and a 2011 first-round draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for former All-Star Mo Williams and 30-year-old dunk artist Jamario Moon.
Actually, now that I think about it, “former franchise cornerstone” may not be the right way to describe Davis’ tenure in a Clipper uniform.
Davis never really became that guy after coming home to L.A. in the summer of 2008. The franchise invested quite a bit in Davis, and didn’t get too much in return. $65 million is no small sum.
To be fair, though, his spirits had to have taken a hit when Elton Brand, who had apparently recruited Davis to join him with the Clippers that summer, turned around and signed an $80 million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers just days after Baron had committed.
The tandem of Brand and Baron was supposed to make the Clippers relevant in Los Angeles once and for all. No longer were they to be the town’s forgotten franchise, wallowing in mediocrity in the shadow of the mighty Lakers.
However, things obviously never panned out that way.
Without another star with which to share the load, Davis’ tenure with the Clippers was riddled with injuries and criticism from all sides.
His stock was high after two consecutive strong seasons with the Golden State Warriors, but his career took a sharp turn in the other direction in Los Angeles.
His first season was particularly abysmal, as he averaged just 14.9 points per game on dreadful 37 percent shooting from the field. Davis also missed 17 games due to injury; a problem that has become all too familiar with him.
Davis played in all 82 games for the Charlotte Hornets in his first three seasons in the NBA, but has topped the 68 game plateau just twice in 10 seasons since. He’s already missed 15 games this season, as well.
With the team struggling, Davis’ motivation and passion for the game appeared to take a major hit.
In Oakland, he was a fiery leader and the heart of a Warriors team that became the first No. 8 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in a seven-game playoff series in the history of the NBA when they beat the heavily-favored Dallas Mavericks in 2007. Clearly, Davis loved playing the game.
For the Clippers, that passion wasn’t there. Taking bad shots. Not getting himself into the best possible basketball shape. Seemingly pouting when things weren’t going well and the team was headed for another 30-win season.
Davis was brought home to L.A. to be a leader, but exhibited very few qualities commonly associated with leadership. Instead of feeding off of the underdog mentality under which his Warriors teams thrived, Davis appeared to just be going through the motions.
To put it simply, Baron Davis did not care.
When this season got off to a rocky start, it seemed like we were about to be subjected to yet another year of mediocrity from Davis.
In training camp, first-year head coach Vinny Del Negro publicly chastised Davis for not reporting to camp in basketball shape. Then, he missed much of the preseason and most of the beginning of the regular season nursing a sore knee.
Same old, same old.
However, while Davis was missing games, superstar rookie Blake Griffin was taking the league by storm.
His highlight-reel dunks and gaudy stat lines night-after-night were not only making the Clippers relevant in Los Angeles, but on a national scale, as well.
Meanwhile, the Clippers were actually looking like a pretty good basketball team, as well.
Then, when Baron returned to the regular rotation and subsequently reclaimed his spot in the starting lineup, we began to see that smile again.
Baron Davis started playing like Baron Davis again.
Evidently rejuvenated by the youthful exuberance that came with playing alongside the likes of Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Eric Gordon, Davis started to look like an All-Star point guard, once again.
The Clippers had gone from perennial NBA doormats to a team of dragon-slayers that were contending with and taking down the league’s elite night-after-night.
The Bulls, Lakers, Heat and Nuggets all fell victim to the oncoming freight train that was Baron Davis and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Then, things began to crumble a bit when the team set out on an NBA-long 11-game road trip in early February.
The Clippers have struggled away from Staples Center all season long, and this trip proved no different.
After the team had won just two of their first nine games on the trip, the Clippers went to New Orleans to face a much-improved Hornets club Wednesday night.
After having played in every single game since December 1, Davis was scratched from the lineup with apparent knee soreness.
No problem, though, right? Surely Baron would return in time to face the Lakers Friday night.
Following another Clipper loss, news broke late Wednesday night that Davis had been shipped to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Yup, those NBA-worst 10-47 Cleveland Cavaliers.
Just when things appeared to be coming back together for Baron Davis, everything came crashing down. Now, instead of growing with the up-and-coming Clippers, Davis is hurtling helplessly towards a team with the mother of all rebuilding efforts on the horizon.
According to reports, instead of potentially holding out and/or threatening retirement, Davis is going to report to the Cavs and will suit up.
However, these new dubious circumstances beg the question: Will we ever see the real Baron Davis again?
About the Author
Written by Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith is a writer for the Los Angeles Clippers.