Just a half-month ago, the Warriors experienced a little blip of a tremor of a shudder of a MASSIVE EVENT HORIZON.
You know, the Baron Davis thing: Opt-out, move out, earth rumbling, thousands shrieking.
We’ve all had 15 or 16 days to chew over it and get over it and see Baron operate as a Clippers’ new boss. (Actually, if you were following the BD back-and-forth properly, you’ve been getting prepared for his eventual departure for months now–you didn’t think it would happen this fast, but you knew it would happen.)
In the instant aftermath, I didn’t do a wonderful job of wrapping up the Warriors’ Baron Davis Era and What Comes Next since I was properly pointed down a more practical avenue: What moves should the Warriors make now?
If you need a review, I’ll throw up the general ideas: Trade for Jamal Crawford or Javaris Crittenton (to get the big point guard you need next to Monta Ellis), maybe go after Corey Maggette (but not for $50M! I should’ve said) and maybe trade for Kirk Hinrich or try to sign restricted free agent Josh Smith or a few others…
I’ll add: I do not think Stephon Marbury is a great option (too small, too crazy–a poor, poor, poor man’s Baron) and I’m not so sure about any potential point guard who is shorter than 6-3.
But now, with a bit of perspective, it’s time to try to put a bow on the BD Age. It was loud. It was the most entertaining 3+ seasons in a long time, it was often a pain in the butt to endure, it was always close to imploding. He blew through one coach (Montgomery), excelled under another (Nelson), then sort of hit a wall at the end of last season.
Again: It was always close to imploding. Then it did.
There are many things about Baron that the Warriors and Warriors fans will miss; there might be even more things that they will not end up missing at all.
Let’s go over 5 on both sides…
1. The identity.
-THE WARRIORS WILL MISS: Davis is a tremendous player with a large, large personality, and he knows it. He wanted the ball in his hands and he wanted everybody else to defer to him. Which they almost always did, and it usually worked.
From the moment he arrived in February 2005, Davis gave the bland, soft Warriors an identity–a tougher, edgier, chip-on-the-shoulder identity. In other words: His identity. They needed one.
BD didn’t just make the Warriors his team. He engulfed everybody on the team, so it didn’t seem like they had any identity that wasn’t tied to him.
If they don’t have somebody else who can grow into that role–and so far, I don’t see that in Ellis–then the Warriors will be just like all the other 20 teams who don’t have a Pure Leader: In the lottery for a while.
-BUT THEY WON’T MISS: Power corrupts and total power totally corrupts. He was the point guard. The best player. The leader. The Man.
If Baron was the driving force of this team, and he was, what prevented him from taking practices, weeks, quarters, even whole games off? Nothing. Sure, Baron had to maintain his energy because Nelson was playing him so much. Sure, BD stayed healthy this season for the first time in a long time.
But Michael Jordan didn’t take practices off. Tim Duncan doesn’t take practices off. Kobe Bryant doesn’t take practices off. Baron did. All of the time. It was always a surprise to walk into the complex during the media portion of Warriors practice and see BD practicing–because he usually didn’t.
When Baron didn’t practice, it was easy for Stephen Jackson to want to sit down. When the younger players saw that… well, that’s not a good thing for future Warriors hardiness, is it?
It was worth it for as long as Baron was one of the top five point guards in the league. About January of last season, he stopped being that. Maybe he’ll regain his form in LA, just like Baron magically regained his health after sitting out in New Orleans to spur his trade to Oakland.
But at some point, you can’t just snap out of lazy/broken down/old lethargy and become a superstar again. At some point, it’s just who you are.
2. The playmaking.
THE WARRIORS WILL MISS: The stats don’t lie–Baron Davis made the Warriors’ offense go. Last season, the Warriors out-scored opponents by 252 points when he in the game. They were out-scored by 154 when he was out of the game.
(That stat is even more profound when you realize BD played about 80% of the team’s minutes–that’s -154 in less than 1,000 non-Baron minutes. Yep, the GSWs stunk without him on the floor last year.)
How many times did the Warriors run a coherent offense when Davis was out for more than two or three minutes? OK, he wasn’t out for more than two or three minutes very often, but when he was, the Warriors offense didn’t flow except for the second half against Phoenix in the second-to-last game, when Nelson benched BD.
The problem: Other than Baron, there aren’t any true playmakers on this team, which is why Nelson was desperate enough to grab after the great Webber mirage. Ellis is developing and can be shaded to his right. SJax tries, but he’s just too slow with the dribble. And other than that…
Baron was the playmaker. He is a great playmaker. Especially at the end of games–Baron is one of the best closers in the league when healthy and motivated. Who finishes games now?
-BUT THEY WON’T MISS: Part of the reason nobody developed as a playmaker is because nobody was allowed to as long as BD was there. As partial evidence, I bring up the second half of the famous Phoenix game, again: Baron was out of the picture, SJax was conked out, and the other Warriors just exploded and got back into the game.
That won’t happen all the time, unless Ellis turns into a true star and the Warriors get another ballhandler or two–Anthony Randolph might be one of those.
But they probably were never going to find out unless Baron was gone–now they can stop looking over their shoulder for him and Nelson won’t be tempted to trash all development and just let BD do it all.
3. The intensity.
-THE WARRIORS WILL MISS: When Baron came to play, he glowed with energy. And he demanded the same out of his teammates and he crushed opponents who didn’t have it (like the Mavericks in Spring 2007).
When the Warriors realized that Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy and Ike Diogu couldn’t keep up, they added SJax and Al Harrington, two guys who could. And together, they changed the Warriors’ on-court culture.
Davis lifted the bar. SJax was there with him. Without Davis, will SJax keep pushing or will he just throw up his hands and go his own way? (I think he’ll be OK–SJax didn’t cause much trouble during his one losing season in Atlanta.)
-BUT THEY WON’T MISS: Baron’s intensity was less and less evident last season–almost to the point, at times, of outright sleepy insubordination at the worst possible times.
He always had a bad habit of not running back on defense when the mood struck. But from the early stages of last season, probably to sustain his energy and also because he knew Nelson wouldn’t hold him accountable, Davis was oblivious to any need to actually defend his man in transition.
Then, as he kept up his games-played streak, Davis’ legs went, anyway. The play I’ll always remember came as the season was winding down and the Warriors were neck-and-neck with Denver for the final playoff spot.
The Warriors were at New Orleans, winding down a tough road trip, needing a big victory to jump-start themselves right back into it. They were in the game–but it was a 10 a.m. West Coast time tip and Baron was never all the way there.
But the Warriors played well otherwise and were in it and even rallied to tie it 90-90 midway through the fourth quarter. Then Paul got the ball in three-point territory against the Warriors zone. Davis was the closest defender, but stood still. Didn’t move. Paul took a long measure, glanced at BD, paused, then hit the three-pointer to go up three.
Baron, as usual, tried to answer back quickly with a wild three, missed, New Orleans came back immediately to score again–game over. Listless, stubborn, listless again.
Instead of a huge morale builder to get the Warriors to 47-30 and ahead of Denver (who went on to lose in Seattle that night), the Warriors remained tied and trudged into the playoff-deciding meeting at home against Nuggets in a panic setting. The Warriors, as you remember, lost.
4. The chemistry.
-THE WARRIORS WILL MISS: Baron was a perfect leader for and complement to SJax, Al Harrington and, to a point, Andris Biedrins. He got those guys going, those guys fed Baron, it worked well. Nelson let them all be… it worked.
-BUT THEY WON’T MISS: The loosey-goosey atmosphere heightened some of SJax’s worst tendencies. For example, if Baron never ran back on defense, could Nelson demand SJax to, you know, run back on defense? No.
And more to the point, Baron’s domination probably wasn’t the right kind of model for Monta Ellis or Brandan Wright, who saw Baron jet off to Sundance on the day of big games, celebrate late into the night before big games, and who knows what else.
Again, as long as Baron was there, Nelson wasn’t going to stop it. But without him… Do you want Ellis trying to grow into a crucial role with somebody like Baron still around? Do you think Baron would’ve accepted Ellis moving into a larger role?
Just ask Jason Richardson how the chemistry went with BD.
5. Respect in the league.
-THE WARRIORS WILL MISS: Baron brought them instant credibility, even before they were winning games or playoff series. Other players like him, other point guards fear him, the league pays attention to him.
-BUT THEY WON’T MISS: As I wrote often when Baron was still a Warrior, around league executive and coaching circles, he’s the least-liked very good player. Byron Scott is no fan. George Karl is no fan. That’s just a few of many, many Baron enemies in the league.
He’s 29. He is certain he is worth big money. The Warriors were not so certain and made that clear to him. They were surprised that he opted out, but not surprised that he was plotting to leave at some point.
Turns out, the only team dumb enough to give Baron $65M was the dumbest team in the league that thought it was making a move to end the dumbness–the Clippers, who thought they had a Baron-Elton Brand package deal.
Oops. Now Baron brings his whole show to the Clippers, without a coach who will give him freedom (he has strict Mike Dunleavy instead of Nelson), in a losing situation (he turned around the Warriors when he was in his mid-20s, not when he was pushing 30), without Brand or anybody else to carry some of the responsibility…
The Warriors will miss him. But I wonder how much the Clippers will miss him… in about a year or so.
I found this article interesting... especially concerning Baron's leadership antics and taking off practices. Although he was our best player, there are things that we definitely will not miss and will improve our team. Also, it seems like Maggette has the work ethic to really help show BWright, Randolph etc. what it's like to be a pro.
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i think maggs will step up as a leader. he doesnt seem like he has the loud leader personality, but his work ethic and lead by example role will likely take effect on the young guys. i hate to say it, but we might have to trade jax to further instill the "work hard" stimulation this year. jax is a good emotional leader sometimes...but he did have the tendency to slack off this year. hopefully he changes that mindset before the season starts and gets a lil more of maggs in him.
with mags work ethic... i hope the other young guys can pick that up and all work together... with more time and effort put in, this would create more team chemistry and camaraderie. article was quite interesting... showed both sides of the arguement. im ready to see this team in action.
Interesting. It did seem at times last year as if BD was almost sabotaging the team later in the year. I had not known that Sjax was also sitting out practice. If Maggette has a great work ethic, that is all for the better. I still wonder if the addition of Webber (a disastrous move) was the final push, because BD was never the same player after that
I liked what Kawikami mentioned as far as nobody was able develope into a playmaker while Baron was on the floor. Not that I whole-heartedly agree, but all of these young guys, especially Monta, now have every opportunity in the world to prove that they can be play makers.