Former All-Star guard Baron Davis shook the foundation a bit recently by coming up with a story about a recent alien abduction, animal-style, on Neal Brennan and Moshe Kasher’s podcast. That’s the most we’ve heard from Baron in a while, especially since he tore his ACL, MCL and PCL in a horrific injury during the first round of the 2012 NBA playoffs. While speaking with MSG Network’s Alan Hahn recently, Davis gave credibility to the idea that he’d like to update that resume before all is said and done.
Between attempts at comedy, Davis says he has continued the rehabilitation process on the gruesome knee injury he suffered in the 2012 playoffs while playing for the Knicks. After taking the last season off (he spent a lot of time around the Knicks), he 34-year-old said he plans to return to the NBA this season.
"My whole thing is to get in the best shape of my life and by September or October be ready to showcase my talent and try out for whoever I need to try out for," he said. "I think the most important thing is being in shape."
He’s right, because this has long been the most important thing with Davis, with the possible exclusion of his shot selection.
Before we can get into any of the usual quibbles with Davis’ game, though, we have to step back and look at the obstacles that he’ll be asked to overcome.
Baron Davis was not that great a basketball player when he went down with that injury in 2012. Conditioning issues from the lockout the year before could explain away some of his declining production, but Davis’ poor play with the New York Knicks in 2011-12 seemed the logical extension of a player that had bounced to his fourth team in less than four years, shooting low percentage shots and turning the ball over far too much along the way.
More than a quarter of the possessions Davis used up in 2011-12 ended in turnovers, and if you run a 22 percent mark in that field (an infamous title that usually goes to a stone-handed big man) you’ll “lead” the league. And this was no small sample size, because the guy played nearly 600 minutes that year. Meanwhile, Davis’ shooting from the floor (37 percent on the season) dipped under 40 percent for the fifth time in his career, as his long-range gunning (5.1 three-pointers for every 36 minutes played, despite shooting just 30.6 percent) dominated his contributions. Davis rarely penetrated, shooting a free throw every 24 minutes, a miserable mark considering just how many other possessions he used up with missed bombs from outside, or turnovers.
This wasn’t a lost year. After years of declining fortunes and a refusal to admit that, hey, Baron Davis is not all that great of an outside shooter, this was the appropriate result at age 32. This is what happens when you don’t change your on-court habits, and I don’t think any amount of off-court changes can help the guy. Baron could be in fabulous shape this October. What will it matter if he’s still chucking away at his career percentages, and once again rarely getting to the line?
People get caught up in the name and the potential for this stocky, springy, sometimes-shoot-y point guard to dominate games. They forget that, throughout his career, he really never was the guy that we wanted him to be all that much. Baron averaged 4.1 free throws for 36 minutes played in his career, hardly the mark of some athletic basher that wants to get into the lane.
As a person, I like Baron Davis a lot. And I want this to succeed – especially if Davis is allowed to end his final NBA game by walking off the court under his own power. Before moving on to a post-playing career that could be pretty entertaining; Baron’s a clever guy, still young in the non-basketball realm, and he can always come back to the league in some sort of coaching capacity down the road.
As even a short-term investment, though, can’t there be other point guard options out there that should grab the spot that Davis covets? Surely some D-Leaguer could, at the very least, top what Davis gave the Knicks some two years ago.
Two years ago, before the crippling knee injury, and entrance into his mid-30s. That’s a lot to overcome.