Baron Davis: “For the Love of the Game”


SANTA CRUZ, Calif.—€” Nine years ago, the Golden State Warriors were fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They finished the season at 42-40, two games ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers, and made a date with the Dallas Mavericks led by league MVP, Dirk Nowitzki.

But the Warriors had their own MVP, and his name was Baron Davis. A two time all-star. But at this point in his career, a bad back lowered his value, and the Warriors capitalized.

Davis led the Warriors to a first round upset of the first seeded Mavericks, the first time an eight seed has beaten a one seed in a seven-game playoff series. The upset is thought of as perhaps the greatest in NBA history.

2007 gave the fans hope that things were changing. Despite a loss in the second round to the Utah Jazz, the 2006-2007 season was special, and still is, special to the Bay Area.

Davis spent the last four years of his career playing for three different teams. In the 2012 playoffs, Davis’ career came to a screeching halt when he tore both his ACL and MCL in a round one playoff game with the New York Knicks.

Davis has not stepped foot on to a professional court in years, but on March 2nd he signed a contract with the D-League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers, the Delaware 87ers. Two days later he played in his first pro game in nearly four years tallying 8 points and 4 assists on 3-for-11 shooting.

He has played three games total in his comeback season, but was sidelined by a minor calf injury days before his highly anticipated match-up with the Santa Cruz Warriors.

A crowd of reporters stood outside the visitors’ locker room, a very unusual sight for a D-League regular season game. But this wasn’t just a regular season game; Baron Davis was home, and the fans were there to welcome him.

Davis came out of the locker room to answer questions before the 132-117 Warriors win over his 87ers, and addressed the media. What has he been up to since the NBA world last saw him?

“€œJust hanging out at home, rehabbing, having kids, finished the documentary,” Davis said, “So I’€™ve been busy. Then the last, I want to say year or so, just been slowly making progress and making my way towards a return on the court.”

He says he is adjusting to the scaled down version of basketball that is the D-League. There are no private charters to games. There are no five-star hotels. It’s different, but he’s learning.

“All you need is a ball and a hoop and a weight room and an opportunity to play,” Davis told reporters,” For me it’s kind of fun traveling on the bus, staying at these hotels because it puts you back in that sense where you’€™re a kid or AAU basketball where you’€™re traveling just playing for the love of the game.”

Davis says he likes his chances to make it back to the NBA. Any team that would be willing to sign him, he would jump at the opportunity, but did mention that he would like to play for a playoff team this post-season who is in need of a back-up point guard. There are a hand full of teams that have that need, but is Davis the guy? If not, he said he’ll just keep working.

Davis was asked about Golden State and said playing for them again would be “a dream come true.” As unlikely as that is, the thought of him coming to Oakland is intriguing. He had nothing but good things to say about this current Warriors team.

“€œI love them. I think that they’€™re a great team. They play team ball,” said the former Warrior, “I never miss watching a game.

They’€™re my favorite team in the league.”

Recently Davis has even had a chance to catch up with some of the guys on the current roster.

“Last year I saw them a couple of times and I just sent my best wishes. I saw them against the Clippers. I go and support them whenever I can, but I just talk to them every now and again.”

Davis walked out of the locker room and on to the court in front of the sellout Santa Cruz crowd to a roaring cheer. The fans were decked out in Davis jerseys and ‘We Believe’ shirts. Davis waved to the fans, and right before the second half started, stopped to sign every single one of the 20 or so young fan’s gear.

“It felt great. It’s always good. I was a little nervous to see how the crowd was going to be but they were great. They showed up and the reception was great.”

Now that the homecoming is over, Davis can refocus on healing up from his injury which he says is day-to-day. He has a few days off before Delaware’s next game on Friday March 18th at home against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. He said the Bay Area will always be home but doesn’t have much planned for his off days.

“Just going to visit some friends, stay low, and rest my calf so I can get back on the court.”

Whether Davis makes it back to the league or not, he will always hold a special place in the hearts of the Warriors fans, just as the Warriors will always hold a special place in his heart.

“€œIt will always be home and (will) always be a special connection.”

A series of event had to play out for the Warriors to be where they are today. In a way, Davis indirectly passed the torch to Stephen Curry to lead a new wave of Warrior success. Only this new wave would swell much higher. This wave would be the biggest one in Warrior, and quite possibly, league history.

“I’€™m now happy that I did leave so the Warriors could get Steph and the Bay Area could win a championship”

But the championship continues to be discredited, more recently by Davis’ former teammate on the famous 2007 team, Stephen Jackson. Does Davis think their squad could beat this current team too?

“I don’t know man. It’s two different teams. This team is a championship team with a championship pedigree. It’s one of those things that you’ll never know,” Davis added, “To try to compare our team to this team is hard to compare. It’d look good, it would be a good match-up because we both play the same style but the things that this Warriors team is doing right now, chasing that record, is pretty unprecedented.”

Davis wants to go out on his own terms. Not on a stretcher in Madison Square Garden. He may be nearing 38 but that doesn’t matter if he can still play. Plenty of guards play into their late 30’s. Vince Carter, Ray Allen, Andre Miller, and many more have played nearing their 40’s. If Davis has something left to give he’ll give it.

He said he’s coming back because he loves basketball. He wants to say good bye to the game in his own way. That is exactly what he is doing.

Next: Santa Cruz Warriors Beat Baron-less 87ers