04/21/2006 02:46:10 AM PDT
Davis has aching foot, fire in belly
Warriors' star eager to silence his critics after injury-marred season
By Geoff Lepper, STAFF WRITER
CUPERTINO — As he sat out 26 of the Warriors' final 32 games this season, Baron Davis listened carefully to every knock directed his way by the doubters who had crawled out of the woodwork.
The thing is, Golden State's star point guard agrees with many of them:
Yes, he wasn't in the shape he needed to be at the start of the season.
No, he wasn't the leader he envisioned himself being for a long-dormant franchise.
And yes, his damaged right foot suffered a setback as a result of his pushing to come back too early, costing him any chance of recovering before the season ended Wednesday.
"I just feel like I've got a lot to prove," Davis said. "I feel like people are counting me out, writing me off, and that's the best. I live for that. ... People write us off and criticize — I accept all of that. I use all of that as a challenge."
Davis spoke to members of the media on Thursday before addressing the youthful attendees in a Warriors-sponsored basketball camp at Cupertino High School. He arrived wearing the same protective boot on his right ankle that he had shed a couple of weeks ago, and finally acknowledged that the injury — originally diagnosed as just a sprained right ankle when it occurred on Feb. 11 — was significantly worse than that. In addition to the sprain, Davis also suffered a bone bruise on his right foot, which cutshort his comeback attempt after six games in March — one at home and then five on a critical Eastern swing against almost exclusively sub-.500 opponents.
"You could see that I was limping, (but) it wasn't because of the ankle, it was more so because of the bone bruise," said Davis, who averaged 17.9 points and 8.9 assists per game, the assists average second in the NBA to Steve Nash. "I should have stayed out for three or four more games on that East Coast trip and tried to come back for the last two or three and let the bruise heal a little bit (longer)."
Davis said playing 40 minutes in the opening game of that fateful trip, a 103-90 loss in Minnesota, made a considerable negative impact on the foot, "and after that, it was just basically trying to get it every game to be good enough to play. Coming back at that particular time was not the best idea."
One reason for pushing the timetable might have been Davis' regret over not being in better shape after giving his body some rest during the summer as he continued to rehab various nagging pains.
"I didn't come (in) as prepared as I should from the get-go," Davis said. "I should have come out the gate smoking, and I wasn't. I just wanted to try to ease my way into the offense and into conditioning, kind of get my rhythm by December, but it was just the wrong approach."
Perhaps also he felt the need to try to prove himself as a bona fide leader. Davis admitted that, although most outsiders assumed that this was his team to guide, that wasn't necessarily the case.
"It just didn't happen that way," Davis said. "Maybe I didn't win enough people over, or maybe I didn't do the things necessary from my standpoint to be that. ... The good thing about it is every year you gain more experience, and being 27 now, I feel like I'm going into my prime. I have a different perspective and a different outlook on the game and a whole different level of appreciation."
He's even got some appreciation for the lack of appreciation he's been shown of late. The last time Davis has felt this slighted was before the 2003-04 season, when he was coming off surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee and had to mesh his game with the regimented style of new Hornets coach Tim Floyd.
So what happened? Davis scored a career-high 22.9 per game, increased his production in every major category, made his second All-Star team and led the Hornets to within a game of a second-round playoff berth.
Davis would love to make good on the promise Jason Richardson made at Monday's home finale — to make the playoffs in 2007 — but he wouldn't match it.
"I'm not saying nothing, man," Davis said. "Everybody just sit back and watch."
NOTES: Because the Warriors finished the season tied with the Rockets for the eighth-worst record in the NBA at 34-48, the teams will be one of several pairs involved in a random drawing today to determine their position in this summer's draft and draft lottery. If the Warriors win their drawing with the Rockets, they would be slotted eighth in the first round, and for lottery purposes and in the second round would have the 39th overall pick; if Houston wins, Golden State will be ninth and 38th.
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