By Tim Kawakami, Baron Davis Q & A (and my flash analysis)
Wednesday, October 25th, 2006 at 7:15 am in Warriors, NBA.
Ideally, this pretty good, pretty long Q & A with Baron Davis from Tuesday night would’ve been folded into the column I wrote for this morning’s paper on the need for him to be a great ensemble player, not a solo artist, under Don Nelson. Oops.
Problem: The column-writing business does not march on an ideal timeline. Since he doesn’t talk pre-game, I only could talk to Davis after the game and after I had to send in the column.
And before Davis met up with very lovely Gabrielle Union, who sat courtside and was waiting to talk to him afterwards. Just friends, I’m sure.
(Also after Nelson gave a great free-flowing rip job of the Warriors’ sluggish early performance against Portland, in a win that put them at 6-0 in exhibitions. Says 5-0 in my column. It’s 6-0. But Nelson praised Davis’ outing. Not so praise-worthy of Monta Ellis, among many others.)
So no Baron quotes in the column. Oh well. Read the column. Read this. It’s a combo-plate!
Baron was there in the locker room after putting up 33 points on 13-for-17 shooting (two-for-two from three-point), grabbing 5 rebounds and passing out 13 assists. He took all questions. He took my many questions, and if you know about last year, you know Baron and I had some troubles last year.
Water under the bridge. This blog is about the future… and about typing out interesting Q & A’s and my own flash analysis.
As usual, many of these questions were mine, some were asked by other reporters. Some questions and answers were compressed and switched around for clarity in this blog and to make sure similar subject matter is grouped together. Off we go…
QUESTION: Is this a good measure of how you’re going to play under Nelson’s system?
BARON DAVIS: You know, just out there doing what the coach asks me to do–that’s push the ball, look for opportunities, look for my teammates.
He showed us some tapes of Steve Nash and Mike Bibby and the things they do as point guards. I’m just trying to take in everything that he’s throwing at me as a coach and just trying to be the best that I can be. I know he wants me to be the best player that I can possibly be.
I’m taking everything that he’s throwing at me and studying and just using this to get back to where I need to be.
QUESTION: What do you think Nelson’s trying to tell you by showing you Nash and Bibby tape?
BARON DAVIS: For me, it’s the little things to help me improve as a player. I watch a lot of those guys, anyway, and I try to take different things from each and every point guard that I like in this league and try to take from their game and implement it into mine.
I just feel those guys are two of the best point guards in the West Coast, along with Tony Parker. Basically, that’s what I have to be. I have to be on that level night in and night out, and better, in order for us to win.
My flash analysis: Nash and Bibby? Hmm. Those guys are more fast-pass-and-cut guys, if I had to label them, than the Jason Kidd/old Baron Davis mode of dribble, dribble, penetrate, dribble some more, with everybody else standing around waiting for the point guard to do everything.
It’s an important difference. Nash and Bibby are almost as important as cutters and finishers as they are dribbler-penetrators.
I think Nelson wants Baron to bring it up faster, get rid of it faster, then roam through the lane without the ball, maybe popping free on the wing the way Bibby does as a spot up shooter. That’s very different than what Davis had been doing for the Warriors, when he dominated the ball with his dribble and penetrated or just passed and stood around the three-point line.
Baron’s smarter than me, so I know he gets what Nelson’s telling him. In Tuesday night’s game, putting up only two three-pointers… Baron got it absolutely.
QUESTION: What does Nelson ask you to do differently than last year?
BARON DAVIS: First of all, I know when I come to the gym that the only thing I’m there to do is play basketball. I’m not there to do anything else. And I can really focus on working on my game and basically just leading by example and just practicing and trying to do the necessary things to help this team just from playing.
Last year, I think it was a lot more than just basketball. And that’s not what we’re here for. I’m here to learn as a player, to learn from my coach and to be led.
When I come in the gym, I know that he’s going to challenge me every day. I’m waiting for him to challenge me. I know that he’s going to get on me about something. For me, I don’t take it as him going at me or anything. I take it as an opportunity to learn. He’s a tough coach.
Flash analysis: Hello Mike Montgomery! It’s a little vague here, but from this and other interviews, it sounds like Baron felt that he had too much responsibility last year–responsibility to lead, to score, to run the offense, to translate Montgomery and possibly to fight Montgomery.
Baron tried to play diplomat (and failed) last year. He did some rebelling (and that didn’t work well). He tried to score (and shot miserably). He tried to stay healthy (no good).
With Nelson, he just wants to play basketball, and play it well, and not be the PR face of the franchise and ticket-seller and leader and NBA conscience. I think Nelson’s all too happy to make sure of that stuff.
That wasn’t all Montgomery’s fault. Mike wasn’t an NBA guy and everybody knew it. But the Warriors put a lot of the PR stuff on Baron for their own purposes, and when it failed, it failed bad last year.
This year, it’s Nelson’s burden. Probably a better fit.
QUESTION: Nelson looked very, very upset during the first half tonight. After the game he said that’s the way you guys played last year. Did you hear that? Did you agree with that?
BARON DAVIS: Absolutely. And I was feeling that, too, as far as coming in. It’s been 4-0, and getting those wins, but those wins not really meaning what he’s trying to accomplish. A lot of times, being a young team, you lose focus and you tend to let up.
He was extra hard on us at halftime, not for the simple fact that we were down, it was just the way we were playing and the things we were not doing.
I totally understood everything he was saying. I always look at myself. It ain’t much that I really have to say in the locker room any more. I can just kind of listen to what he’s saying, absorb it and just try to show it in my play.
QUESTION: Is it good for this team that you’re 5-0 and he’s still lacing into you guys?
BARON DAVIS: It’s good. It’s great because we have a long way to go as a team. We have a long way to go… Once the regular season starts, teams are going to have their full rosters and they’re going to be playing 10 times as hard.
What we can’t allow ourselves to get comfortable with is what we’re doing right now. We have to make efforts and strides to get better every day in practice…
QUESTION: Do you feel comfortable, with Jason Richardson out the whole time and Troy Murphy out now?
BARON DAVIS: I just want to work. I know we have a lot of guys that are going to be called upon to play. We all have to continue to do a better job to improve within the offense, the defense… that our coach is asking us to do.
Once we get Troy back, when we get Jason back, they’ve got a lot of catching up to do. But at the same time, that’s their challenge as individuals and as veterans on this team.
QUESTION: Earlier, Nelson said you’re probably not a 40-minute a game guy any more. Do you agree with that? Are you a 35-, 36-minute guy now?
BARON DAVIS: Whatever I’m called upon to do, that’s cool. I have to just continue to work on getting stronger and taking good care of my body. Hey, 35 minutes would be cool. I played 44 the other night.
I think he’s just pushing me and I’m accepting the challenge and I want to continue to accept the challenges that he gives me.
QUESTION: Do you personally need a coach like him, who has such a clear vision of what he wants out of his point guard?
BARON DAVIS: I definitely feel that I need somebody like that, you know? That’s something that I always wanted. I had that in the beginning with Paul Silas, and my career started to take off, and I was learning and growing as a player. And then it was a period, a stretch of time, where I had three coaches in three years or something like that.
I think it kind of helped me to figure some things out on my own, and rely more on myself to do things. But now, having a coach like Don Nelson, who’s a star in his own right, with his tenure in the league, is tremendous for me. Because I know that he has a wealth of knowledge, and I can take a lot of that and implement it into my game and I know he’ll make me a better player.
QUESTION: What are you thinking every possession with Nelson?
BARON DAVIS: Just push it. Don’t stop. He constantly wants me to push the ball and create opportunities for myself and for my teammates. Just making the right decisions as a point guard. That’s what I feel I need to do. If at the end of the game he tells me I had a good game, for me, that’s satisfying.
QUESTION: Did he tell you that tonight?
BARON DAVIS: No. (Laughs.) I mean, I can feel it. I can feel it. But I still want to continue to work, because I feel that he’s going to always be my toughest critic.
QUESTION: You’re a strong personality. Do you need a strong personality to coach you?
BARON DAVIS: Just need a good coach, man. You just need a good coach. A coach that you respect. That’s what it’s about. I have thick skin and I can take a lot. Having someone like him, he’s a personality in his own right, it’s great. Because I don’t mind following. I don’t mind following good leaders.
Flash analysis: It’s strange, but I can see Baron and Nelson getting along very well for a long while. I don’t exactly know why I feel this, but I do.
I was probably the first guy to predict that Baron and Montgomery would inevitably–and pretty quickly–clash. I wrote that the day the Warriors traded for Baron. I wrote that he was a great player, but that he would not always work well with a college coach like Montgomery.
I think I was right. Baron fights authority, but he loves it, too. He wants to be coached by somebody who knows more than him. Montgomery was afraid to coach him, and didn’t know more than him, and that just made it worse. Nelson and Baron might jabber at each other, but they’ll understand each other. They won’t tiptoe. They’ll communicate.
I’m not saying that I think it guarantees the playoffs now or next season or whenever. Baron can get hurt. Nelson could get frustrated with the Warriors’ roster problems. But I think Baron understands that he can’t undermine Nelson–not literally, because Nelson is backed 100% by Chris Mullin; and not ever, because it’d be the end of Davis’ NBA reputation.
He needs it to work out well with Nelson, and he needs to be a good solider who doesn’t try to run the team. Nelson needs him in shape and not ordering everybody else around. That could work.
I wrote today that Baron can’t be the singular centerpiece. I just don’t think his body allows it and his mind gets too cluttered sometimes. But he can be a great point guard, still. Nelson will need him for that.
Great article but Kawakami is a Jerk
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The Broe Knows Dont Hate....
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Great Baron interview, and thanks for posting it, Broe. This Kawasaki guy is starting to piss me off. Someone needs to knock him on his ass.
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I agree with all your thoughts on Kawakami, sometimes this guy gives a sobering perspective but he is waaaaaaaay pessimistic.
MARCUS THOMPSON IS THE BIGGEST RETARD IN SPORTS BAR NONE!!!! DID YOU READ THAT GUYS ARTICLE ON SWINGMEN?
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