Forgetting for a moment that the true condition of Baron Davis’ spine is less certain than the ending to Inception, the most compelling aspect to the Knicks’ signing of the once-elite point guard is that he’s never really played alongside a superstar before; let alone two of them.
Browse the 12-year veteran’s teammate-log, and you’ll find a veritable who’s who of castaways, malcontents, ancients and epic draft-busts.
Early on there were Baron’s rookie-season teammates, the immortal Derrick Coleman and another Davis – this one of the “Wrong Rim Ricky” variety – each of whom were known for their character and work ethic. Or lack thereof, more precisely.
And who could forget Hersey Hawkins, then an 84-year-old running-mate during Davis’ second season with the Charlotte Hornets.
Throughout his career, Davis has had the esteemed honor of playing with a bevy of “legitimate” big men, like Elden Campbell, Robert “Tractor” Traylor, Dale Davis, Adonal Foyle, P.J. Brown and Sean Rooks.
He’s also had the absolute pleasure of dishing to countless other luminaries, like Calbert Cheaney, Clifford Robinson, former-Knick Anthony Mason, and a young and happy-go-lucky version of J.R. Smith.
I could go on and on, but surely by now you get the point; Baron Davis has never really been asked to do anything other than everything on flawed teams, with little support.
How else to explain the widely-held belief that he’s been a losing player with questionable motivation and dedication?
If we look to the statistics – as fellow Knick-savants, Knickerblogger and Knicks Fan Blog, astutely do, to some degree – then we should expect Davis to shoot early, often and poorly in a Knick-uniform. After all, the so-anointed “Baron of Broadway” is but a career 41.0% shooter (32.1% from long-range), and those far more knowledgable than me often use the scary-sounding term “volume scorer” (whatever that means) when discussing the guard’s limitations.
But perhaps the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
You might be surprised to learn that teams led by Davis have made the playoffs in six of his 12 years in the NBA. Notwithstanding the last three seasons – where he was marooned on islands of ineptitude in Los Angeles and Cleveland– he’s managed to go 331-277 as a starter (.545%), despite the aforementioned lack of weapons at his disposal.
In fairness, Davis has enjoyed various inconsequential pairings with the likes of Blake Griffin (half a season), and neophyte-versions of David West, Monta Ellis and Eric Gordon along the way, but only the vastly-underrated and oft-forgotten Jamal Mashburn could possibly be considered a teammate that was actually better than the new Knick point guard.
Given a dose of truth syrum, even Baron’s skeptics would admit that he’s never played for a team remotely constituted as the Knicks presently are.
And therein lies the impossibility of predicting future the two-time All-Star’s future performance.
Quite simply, the key factor in Knick-GM Glen Grunwald’s low-risk, high-reward gambit is Baron Davis’ health. This is a two-time All Star who has played in all 82 games of a season four times during his career. Davis has finished in the league’s top-8 in assists and top-9 in steals, seven times apiece.
Carmelo Anthony andAmar’e Stoudemire are undoubtedly more talented than anyone who Davis has suited up with. Not only should Baron feel less pressure to carry his team’s offense – primarily by jacking up poor attempts with ample time on the shot clock, as has been his wont from time-to-time – but the presence of the two Knick-superstars should keep any malcontentedness in check.
Here’s hoping that Santa leaves some anti-herniation juice under Baron Davis’ tree, and when he finally suits up, we’ll assess whether he’s capable of molding his game to the reality of the Knicks’ needs.