Ball Don't Lie - NBA



It was never a grand experiment, and it looked a little dubious from the start, but it appears as if Baron Davis'(notes) time in Los Angeles is catching up with itself.

We've no doubt that Davis is hurting, a cyst in his left knee is making it tough for him to keep up at this level, and he's not wrong for taking time off as the slog of an 82-game season commences.

What's wrong with this whole ordeal is what led up to this consistent, likely debilitating, knee pain. The years of trying to play point guard at an NBA level while carrying, let's be honest, too much weight. You can't enter the league on a surgically repaired left knee and expect to play by the same rules as everyone else. Or even, as your talent sometimes allows, fall short of the level of fitness that other point guards need to sustain in order to survive.

Long story, made short? Davis was too doughy, for too long, to play on that knee without resulting pain. He didn't watch what he put into his body, and he waited too long (most every summer, going back to his time in Charlotte and New Orleans) during the offseason to start conditioning for the season ahead. And it's caught up with him.

And, mixed in with a game that hasn't really developed much since his second year in the NBA, and a contract that is set to pay him over $41 million from now until 2013, this has made him an albatross of the highest order, non-Gilbert Arenas(notes) Faction.

The Clippers have sat Davis, after a crummy start to his season (making fewer than a third of his shots over the first three games of the year), and seem good to go with 19-year-old former Kentucky shooting guard Eric Bledsoe(notes) at the helm. You can't blame them. Bledsoe pushes the ball, he doesn't take nutty 3-pointers, and while it's clear in watching him that he's still a little hesitant to hit his teammates on the fly with the dish, the rookie will become more and more confident with his passing as his young career moves along.

Davis? The time has come for people to start asking what I've been wondering for years -- what has this guy ever done right?

2006-07? That was an astonishing turn, a fantastic season that gave Golden State Warrior fans something they'd long deserved. But it was bookended by a 2005-06 run in the Bay Area that saw Davis chucking a team-killing six 3-pointers per game while shooting just 31.5 percent from deep, and a 2007-08 turn that made Don Nelson a sympathetic figure as he benched an ineffective (and, rumors persist, less than professional) Davis in Golden State's most pivotal game.

Before that? Incessant clashes with coaching and management and teammates in New Orleans. The failure to even wrest a starting spot in his rookie year from David Wesley in Charlotte, as teammates and coaching staff alike disagreed with the way Davis ran the team. Conditioning issues, decision-making issues, and a career that just seemed to be getting by on raw talent alone.

After that? A trip home to play for the Clippers, destroying the 2008-09 version of that team with awful shooting (37 percent overall, 30 percent from long range while he sent up five 3-pointers a game) and miserable defense. A return to form the year after (that is to say, matching his career average of 40 percent shooting from the floor), and only taking four 3-pointers per game while shooting 27.7 percent from behind the arc. But little in the way of consistently changing the game in Los Angeles' favor.

And this year? Clearly out of shape, to start the year. Clearly hurting, and why wouldn't he be? It's no picnic bounding around an NBA court for over a decade, in any form or shape. But, as it's been in the face of Paul Silas, or Don Nelson, or Bill Simmons, and now Vinny Del Negro, he's again telling us that next summer he'll get it right. That he won't wait until August to start working on the conditioning that has never been a part of his routine, save for 2006-07 by all appearances.

Shooting fish in a barrel? No doubt, especially as I'm the sort of guy that can barely be bothered to do much more than treadmill work. But it's not my job to be in shape. It's my job to watch a billion basketball games and tell you what the Clippers can and/or should do with Baron Davis.

What they should do is what they're doing. Beyond that terrible shooting percentage is a man who hasn't been able to stay in front of anyone defensively since 2008. He's a liability on the court, and you're hurting the team if you play Baron Davis in his current state. Even if he doesn't exactly look like Eddy Curry(notes) out there, and Eric Bledsoe isn't going to set the league on fire this soon, the Clippers aren't going anywhere with Davis (again, in his current state -- hurting) at the helm.

But where to trade him? I haven't the foggiest.

With contracts this bad, you usually go down the ranks of contracts that actually stink worse than someone like Baron's, and see if a move for those sorts of deals wouldn't help the Clippers.

Trading for Gilbert Arenas, a Los Angeles native, would seem to be a nice starting-over point for the beleaguered star. But the Clippers already have a burgeoning star in Eric Gordon(notes) at Gilbert's position, as do the Washington Wizards (with John Wall(notes)) at Davis' slot. Washington would probably welcome the savings, but it's still a tough sell on both ends.

To New York, for Eddy Curry's expiring contract? It might fit, I suppose, for New York; but the Knicks are hoping to pounce on a apparently opting-out Chris Paul(notes) in the summer of 2012, so adding Davis' $14.75 million deal for 2012-13 wouldn't be helping anything.

Those are the home run moves. What follows, then, would be a litany of deals that could involve trade exceptions or three-way machinations, in order to give Baron Davis his newest starting-over point.

But what's the point?

I'll tell you the point. There's no clear reason to trade for Baron Davis, at this point.

Even if he takes November and December off, gets into tip-top shape, and dominates with health, precision and hops from January until the spring (or even summer), history tells you that he's just going to fall back into old habits once the season ends. And even if he bucks that trend, and works out for most of next summer, what's to say that his 2012-13 run won't see him showing up to camp out of shape while making over $14 million? Sure, he'd be a tradeable expiring contract at that juncture, but that's also after hoping that a whole lot goes right (and in the face of Baron's career tendencies) in the meantime.

Sadly, the whiff and the rumor that came out of Charlotte training camp way back in the fall of 1999 has persisted to this day, and it's not because we're some sort of "first glance is the most telling glance"-types. Baron Davis is hard to live with, and his production will rarely match his prodigious talent.

And that's a bummer. But it's Los Angeles' bummer to deal with, and it's not like it didn't have any warning with this guy, when it signed him back in 2008.

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