Baron Davis Admits to Poor Conditioning, but Shot Selection a Bigger Issue
Ever since training camp, Vinny Del Negro has been on Davis about his conditioning, and now, it appears that the team's new head coach had a valid reason. According to a report from ESPN Los Angeles, Davis admitted for the first time that he was out of shape and acknowledged that the knee injury was a result of his getting a late start on his training for the upcoming season.
"I usually get in shape in August," Davis said. "I've been doing that for the last six years of my career. This August I started working out and getting ready to go and it got a lot harder. It wasn't like I wasn't doing anything but my body wasn't responding as quickly as it usually does and I think I kind of faced that reality this summer."
Del Negro was quick to point to the lack of offseason work as a likely cause for Davis' injury.
"Baron knows he was behind in his conditioning and he's had to work so hard to get in condition that he's had to put some extra strain on his knee," Del Negro said. "That causes a lot of problems for everybody; for Baron, for the team, for everyone involved. He needs to be a leader and a catalyst for this team and by not preparing the right way he's hurting himself and hurting the group and he knows that."
Let's forget for a moment the fact that waiting until August to start getting ready for training camp, when your season has been over since mid-April, is a precarious choice for any NBA player, but especially so for one like Davis, who has struggled with weight issues in the past. The Clippers are four games into the season, and already the starting point guard is sidelined with the new head coach piling on with finger-pointing lectures and I-told-you-so comments to the press.
Not exactly the best way to start a new relationship, is it?
This, as they say, is likely to end badly. But that's a little ways off. What should be of more immediate concern to the Clippers is the way that Davis chooses to play the game when he's healthy.
Davis is a shoot-first, pass-almost-never point guard; I present to you as evidence a sequence from opening night, where Davis had the ball leading a 5-on-2 fast break, and -- you guessed it -- didn't pass. If Davis' shot selection or field goal percentage was reasonable, despite there being more deserving talent on the team, it would be difficult to argue with his chosen style of play. But they're not: in the three games Baron has played in this season, he's shooting 32.4 percent from the field, and 11.1 percent from the three-point line. The latter number is unconscionable, really, considering that over 26 percent of his shot attempts have been from downtown.
The team might be stuck with Davis, due to a hefty contract that is weighted disproportionally to his ability to help his team. But if Monday night against the Spurs was any indication, they don't need to play him if he's going to continue his me-first ways.
L.A. was forced to start rookie Eric Bledsoe in Davis' place, and to be honest, he didn't produce all that much. But he did bring a fire and energy that we haven't seen from Davis anywhere close to regularly, and more importantly, Eric Gordon had his best game of the season with Davis on the sideline.
Gordon scored 22 points and handed out 11 assists while turning it over only twice. He averaged just 16.7 points and 2.7 assists in the three games that Davis appeared in.
One game obviously doesn't provide enough data to make any serious decisions, but the point is, while Bledsoe may not be ready to run the point yet (or even be ready to productively play a starter's share of the minutes), putting the ball in Gordon's capable hands certainly might turn out to be more than a viable option.
Now, there are many factors at play, and the Clippers aren't going to give up on Davis this quickly. Eventually, he'll get into some form of acceptable playing shape, and the nagging injuries will subside enough to allow him to play somewhere north of 60 games.
But honestly, this team's ultimate demise won't come as a result of Davis missing games due to conditioning or whatever else. The destruction will be directly attributable to the soul-crushing way that Davis chooses to play the game when he is physically able.