By Dave Newhouse, STAFF WRITER
Baron Davis is a composite of the greatest Warriors.
He has Larry Smith's court vision, Tim Hardaway's coolness, Guy Rodgers' passing skills, Chris Mullin's creative shotmaking, Sarunas Marciulionis' driving mentality, and Al "The Destroyer" Attles' toughness.
Davis, in other words, is the most complete Warrior after Rick Barry.
And not since Barry has another Warrior so inflamed the franchise with promise and possibility. Barry made the Warriors a playoff team, a championship team, and Davis has that same postseason aura about him.
He arrived too late to prevent the franchise's 11th straight missed playoffs, but there's always next season when Davis should be at full health and more familiar with his equally youngteammates.
He offered a deeper insight into himself and the Warriors' future while receiving treatment Saturday at the team's practice facility in Oakland.
Q. Baron Davis is a distinctive name. Whose idea was that?
A. My father named me Baron, because he said I'd be royalty, famous one day. He must have known something.
Q. A baron has control, as in a land baron. Do you see yourself in control on the basketball court?
A. I definitely feel in control the majority of the time. I'm young
(he turned 26 Wednesday) and still learning. But when I'm on the court, I have complete peace of mind.
Q. How would you define that peace of mind?
A. I love the challenge, the physical contact, paying attention to detail. To me, basketball is a beautiful thing.
Q. When is basketball at its most beautiful?
A. It's the flow of the game and the momentum. When we have the lead. Getting a shot for yourself or your teammates. Really seeing your teammates playing at the best of their ability.
Q. How do you make your teammates better?
A. My favorite thing is assists. Basketball is about sharing and believing in each other. For me, it's helping, contributing, getting someone an easier shot. I'd like to be known as one of the best teammates to ever play this game.
Q. You've turned around a struggling franchise. Can one man make that much of a difference in a team sport?
A. Sometimes. This team always had the talent. It was a mentality we were lacking. I believe in each and every individual on this team. They all want to get better, and I believe I can make them better.
Q. When did your take-charge personality emerge?
A. I've always been a point guard, ever since I was 6 playing with 9- and 10-year-olds.
My coach told me a point guard is supposed to tell everyone what to do, and to supposedly know what the coach wants.
Q. Did NBA players such as Magic Johnson influence you?
A. Absolutely. Magic Johnson and John Stockton and Isiah Thomas. You learn so much from watching them. With Magic, it was his will to drive players to play better than they even think they're capable of, and to see the floor. With Stockton, it was his toughness and his ability to pick people apart. Thomas, pound for pound, is the best player who ever played. He incorporated passing and scoring as well as any point guard, and he could take over a game.
Q. Does any current NBA point guard offer more than you?
A. There are a lot of point guards who are good at what they do • Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Stephon Marbury. We all have different qualities. It's tough to say who's better. But I feel when I step on the court, I'm as good as any point guard I match up against.
Q. Nash is having an MVP-like season. Could you have a similar impact on the NBA next season?
A. I believe in me. Even last year, I had a great year. But I've only begun to scratch the surface. If I continue to work hard, and we play well as a team, we'll definitely get all the accolades we're supposed to get, individually and collectively.
Q. Is it too optimistic to envision the Warriors winning 50 games next season?
A. We don't like to put a price tag on our victories ... but I think it's possible.
Q. What have you discovered about Warriors fans?
A. They're great. I've never played in front of so many people, and so many people who are behind you and cheering loud. It's a playoff atmosphere in the regular season. I can't wait until we make our push for the playoffs next season.
Q. Do you agree with speculation that the Warriors' one missing piece is a scoring center?
A. I feel we have exactly what we need to be successful. Our big guys do a great job in their roles. We have a lot of scorers outside of our center position. Our centers give us a chance to be successful out on the perimeter.
Q. What parts of your anatomy are hurting?
A. I have a little shoulder tendinitis, a little knee tendinitis, and my Achilles' (tendon) is still recovering. I haven't been able to lift weights because of my shoulder, and the tendinitis has affected my shooting. But I still have my explosion, and it's fun to be out there.
Q. Do you see yourself as a complete player?
Defensively, I don't think I have been as good as I can be. I'd like to improve on turnovers, free-throw shooting and my midrange jumper.
Q. You grew up in Southern California, went to UCLA, know the Hollywood scene. How different is the Bay Area?
A. A little bit more relaxed, laid back. But at the same time, it has a big-city feel, so it's not that much different from L.A. I guess in L.A. there are more hangout spots. You can hang out any day, all day. But the people here are pretty cool.
Q. What are your releases from basketball?
A. I like to read and write. I read a book every two weeks. It can be an autobiography or a sports book. I have a film production company, so I write down ideas. Movie ideas, things I see in my life that are funny. I like to write about people.
Q. What are you like away from basketball?
A. Easy going, funny, cool to be around. I'm down for my people; if you're down for me, I'm down for you.
Q. Does that mean you're loyal?
A. Very loyal.
Q. You knew Mike Montgomery as a college coach. How has he adjusted to NBA coaching?
A. In college, you have more time on the shot clock, the game is slower, and it's more system basketball. You can control a
college game. NBA has no control. Guys are so good. NBA is pretty much impromptu, on the fly. Just from the time I've been here, I've seen a lot of improvement in the coach's ability to coach in impromptu situations, to coach on the fly. You can just tell, for a first-year coach, he's getting better and better.
Q. As a writer, how would you write the perfect script for your stay here in Oakland?
A. It would be for us to be contending for a championship, to give the fans some of the best basketball they've ever experienced, and for that trade to go down as one of the worst in the history of sports.
Q. Or from the Warriors perspective, one of the best?
A. For here, the best. I want it to be the most lopsided trade in the history of sports, because of the turnaround of two different organizations.
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