L.A. Clippers point guard Baron Davis has three seasons and more than $41 million remaining on the lucrative contract he signed in 2008, but his best days as a Clipper -- and as a player -- are clearly behind him. Not even three weeks into this season, Davis came under fire from new head coach Vinny Del Negro, who questioned his conditioning, according to ESPN Los Angeles:
"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."
The same report mentions Davis admitted to showing up out of shape for training camp. It mainly focuses on the fact that Davis' extra weight, coupled with multiple knee injuries sustained throughout his career, has forced him out of the lineup so he can recover.
A benching, in and of itself, isn't such a bad thing. There's no sense in forcing Davis to play through such debilitating pain. As a bonus, rookie backup Eric Bledsoe is flourishing in Davis' stead, prompting our own Steve Perrin of Clips Nation to ask, "Where did that come from?"
But even when Davis returns, and presumably to the starting lineup, the Clippers will have a problem on their hands, a problem that's vexed coaches and teammates throughout his career. I'm not referring to his attitude -- I can't speak to that, at all -- but rather his shot selection.
Counting this season, Davis has jacked a whopping 34.6 percent of his shots from three-point range, or one trey every 6.9 minutes. His conversion rate stands at an icy 31.9 percent. Only twice in his 11-year career has he made good on more than one-third of his three-point offerings throughout a season.
NBA point guards need not own an accurate outside shot to enjoy success in this league, as the Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo has proven. The problem with Davis isn't his lack of accuracy, but the combination of volume three-point shooting and poor marksmanship.
That's the most frustrating aspect of Davis' play. Despite his pervasive pattern of offensive inefficiency, the only time he posted a Player Efficiency Rating below the league average of 15.0 came as a rookie, though if he doesn't pick up his play upon his return this season, he'll add to that record. Davis, for all his errors in shot-selection, remains a gifted passer who creates for his teammates -- he ranks fifth among active players in assists per game -- without committing an undue amount of turnovers. Davis' talent should be obvious to anyone watching.
Looking back, he'll hold a special place in plenty of NBA fans' hearts as one of the charismatic leaders of the WE BELIEVE Golden State Warriors, who upset the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 Playoffs. If filling the iconic role on that team proves to be his legacy, he ought to be proud. The shame is that he could have been even greater, throughout his career, if he committed more to his conditioning and simply stopped pulling the trigger from beyond the arc.