By Marcus Thompson II, CONTRA COSTA TIMES
OAKLAND - Scary.
It's the one word that has been thrown around the most to describe Warriors point guard Baron Davis' potential for next season. It's the word that's consistently been used when anticipating what the Warriors will be like with a healthy and in-shape Davis.
"If he's in better shape, more healthy," Warriors guard Derek Fisher said, "you know he's going to come back next year ready to tear it up."
With B. Diddy holding the keys to the city, his offseason work will be vital to the Warriors' success. Any playoff run will hinge on Davis being in tip-top shape and staying healthy all season.
There's little question whether he can lead the Warriors to the postseason after the show he put on since being acquired Feb. 24 in a trade with the New Orleans Hornets. He averaged 19.5 points and 8.3 assists in 35.3 minutes during his 28-game stint with the Warriors. His numbers jump to 22.5 points and 9.4 assists per game in his 19 starts.
He led the Warriors to 14 wins in their final 18 games -- their best season-ending stretch since moving to the West Coast in 1962 -- despite various aches and pains: sore back, right shoulder bursitis, bruised right Achilles tendon, sprained left ankle, knee tendinitis, sore neck, bruised elbow and a bruised tailbone.
"I just have to get in better shape this offseason, get a lot stronger and get rid of these little aches and pains," said Davis, who is scheduled to make $13.7 million next season. "I've been playing well, but I know I can play better. Once I get my body right, I'll be cool."
Davis said he's going to take a two-month break before getting into his training schedule, which he said will consist of a lot of running and lifting. He said he's cutting back on pick-up games (that means likely no action in New York's Rucker Park) to avoid typical summer injuries. His focus will be on eating right, getting lots of rest and refining his skills.
He's going to spend most of his time in Las Vegas, where he lives, and Los Angeles, where he's from. Davis said he plans to spend his days working out and handling the business of Too Easy Entertainment, his movie production company.
Come training camp in October and the start of the season in November, there should be a quicker, stronger, more explosive Davis -- one who can finish above the rim, blow by defenders and still have energy left for slap-the-floor defense in the fourth quarter.
"What you might see is a guy that's a little bit quicker with the ball at the point of attack," Warriors coach Mike Montgomery said. "You might see a guy that's a little more explosive with penetration because of his legs being healthy. ... The explosiveness at the basket might be a little bit better. His ability to sustain himself defensively and running the break might be better because he's in better shape.
"You're not going to see a guy that's doing things differently. What he's doing right now is pretty special. So that's his game. Maybe it's more of it, maybe it's a little oomph at the end of some certain things."
But Warriors management is looking for Davis to do more than get himself in shape. Realizing it can't force a player to train or even monitor its players' work, management is expecting the team's leaders to make sure the work gets done. The team's brain trust wants Davis, the Warriors' best player, to be the leader by voice and example.
"That would be the best-case scenario for us," said Warriors general manager Rod Higgins, adding that guard Jason Richardson and forward Mike Dunleavy also are players who can rally the troops. "If we can get a situation where Baron becomes a leader where he encourages some of the guys to come in and use our facilities to work out, build the camaraderie we've established over the last few weeks, that's good."
Several other players have a lot to do this summer.
Power forward Troy Murphy said he's going to spend the entire summer working to refine his low-post game. Richardson's going to play point guard to tighten his ball-handling, something guard Mickael Pietrus said he's also going to work on. Davis wants to improve his midrange shot and free-throw shooting.
Forwards Zarko Cabarkapa and Andris Biedrins are going home to Europe to rest for a while, but when they return, it's going to be meat, potatoes and dumbbells as they both want to add weight and strength. Dunleavy said he wants to add strength, especially in his lower body.
In the team meeting after Wednesday's season finale, Davis, Richardson and Fisher implored their teammates to carry the excitement they've generated into their offseason workouts. The same three plan to hit the phones throughout the summer and make sure everyone is doing their part.
Davis said he will be at summer league in Las Vegas supporting the rookies and young players. He also said he will make sure the Warriors get together in Oakland at some point this summer and work together as a team.
"A lot of championship (caliber) teams, they had a guy or two that played at a level that maybe nobody's seen them play before," Fisher said. "Like Kevin Garnett last year. Minnesota got knocked out in the first round every year, then last year they make the (Western) Conference finals because of a guy like Kevin Garnett. I'm sure he made the decision himself (the previous) offseason that he was going to be the best that he's ever been. That's what makes the difference, how many guys come back the next year maybe twice as good as they were last year. That happens in the offseason."
The idea that Davis can come back better, maybe twice as good, that's just flat-out scary.
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