Welcome to Spotlight Friday: Clippers Edition. Each Friday from now until the first week of the NBA regular season, I will spotlight a different Clipper player and what he means to the team in '09-'10. The schedule is as follows:
I wonder if Baron Davis ever realized he is one of the greatest enigmas in the league. When he is healthy and motivated, he plays at a level so high, it's difficult to find many players on par with him. However, if he's physically lingering and/or disinterested, it's evident to his teammates and the fans in the stands. Losing plays a big part in his motivation(or lack thereof) - and since the Clippers won a dismal 19 games last season, he figured it was a good time to mail it in.
On talent alone, Baron is a top 5 PG. He has an arsenal of moves most elite PG's wished they had. Whether it's his slick ball handling, masterful dribble penetration, fantastic passing ability, clutch shooting, or cutting off passing lanes with ease, he is the prototypical lead guard. So what was the problem last season? Well, for one, he was never completely healthy, having missed all but one game in the preseason due to a hand injury, suffering a bruised tailbone in only the 2nd game of the regular season(vs. Denver), and so on, it was hard for him to ever gain momentum. His shooting was affected by it, his jumping ability hampered as he only had 3 dunks in the entire season(compared to 16 in '07-'08). Another well-documented reason is his relationship with Coach Mike Dunleavy. They obviously were not seeing eye-to-eye, considering Baron's freelancing vs. Dunleavy's micro-managing. It's been known that Dunleavy has an enormous playbook(said to be a couple hundred pages thick), and God knows why he feels he needs to implement a system of that magnitude. Placing a huge restriction on Boom is like begging for a disaster to occur. At the same time, Baron needs to show a little more restraint and not jack up 25 ft. contested 3's with 20 seconds remaining on the shotclock. And of course, there is the issue of playing hard. Davis doesn't play hard at ALL TIMES, which is inexcusable. He shouldn't need to be pushed into giving maximum effort, he just needs to know it's a given.
Some will say super rookie Blake Griffin is the key for the '09-'10 season. Others will say Kaman staying healthy is. A number believe the improvement of Eric Gordon will have a huge hand in the team's success. Could it be the contributions of the bench that determine if the Clippers are a playoff team? But I believe the #1 reason for any success at all will be at the helm of one Baron Davis. He is in the driver's seat. He is supposedly in the best shape of his career. He says he has reconciled with Dunleavy and has promised the team will "run, run, run". Whether you choose to believe him or not is entirely up to you. All I know is, he has NO MORE EXCUSES. SHOW AND PROVE...sorta like this: