Davis' buzzer-beater so much more
There was a time in his career when Baron Davis was known for hitting buzzer-beaters.
A time not so long ago, actually.
Back when he played for the Golden State Warriors, BD and buzzer-beater were virtually synonymous. Five times in his four seasons with the Warriors, he hit winning shots in the final three seconds of regulation or overtime.
The last one, coincidentally, came in a 119-117 win over the Celtics on Feb. 20, 2008.
A lot has happened since then, though. Or, rather, not much has happened since then.
Since joining the Clippers as probably the club's highest-profile free-agent acquisition, Davis has done almost nothing of substance except get into a furtive feud with coach Mike Dunleavy and endorse Jenny Craig weight-loss products.
Until Sunday night.
In one perfect second, after playing his perfect game of the season, Davis drained a fallaway jumper over the outstretched arms of Rajon Rondo to give the Clippers a 92-90 win, their best victory of the season.
The sellout crowd erupted in joy as much as surprise.
Finally ... maybe ... possibly ... the Baron Davis they all thought they were getting in the summer of 2008 might still be there.
"This is one of the first [buzzer-beaters] that I've made here for this organization. I hope to make many more," Davis said.
"Last year was a totally different year. It was a year of frustration. I don't really remember what happened last year. All I remember is that wasn't me."
If only it were that easy to expunge the record.
Davis may not want to remember much about his first season back in his hometown, but the Clippers' long-suffering fans do and will for a while.
He wasn't just ineffective, he was bad -- out-of-shape, uncomfortable and obviously frustrated all the time.
"Last year, he never was focused. I'm just going to say it," Clippers guard Eric Gordon said. "This year, he's definitely working harder. And he can still get better. I mean, if he plays like that every single night, you'll hardly ever see us lose games."
Despite Davis' attempts to forget what happened, he's made a point of owning up to last season's failures and doing something about them. During the summer, he got serious about his conditioning and dropped 15 pounds. He also reached out to teammates such as Marcus Camby, Gordon, Ricky Davis and Al Thornton and made sure they were all on the same page.
"I know there's a lot of pressure with him being from here and him being the face of the franchise," Camby said. "Especially after the season he had last year, I know he wanted to bounce back and have a good season this year."
Ironically, the event that may have helped everyone turn the corner is when Blake Griffin became the face of the franchise the second the Clippers made him the No. 1 overall draft pick in June.
All the attention and expectations shifted to the rookie from Oklahoma and away from Davis, who was still adjusting to Dunleavy's system and his new teammates.
Given a bit of room to breathe, Davis had time to reflect and analyze his role on the team. What has become obvious to everyone involved is that the Clippers are a better team when he's dominating the action instead of just trying to set up his teammates.
"I think what we're all really starting to figure out that the more aggressive I am, the more aggressive we are as a team," said Davis, who had 24 points and a season-high 13 assists Sunday night. "As much as I like to initiate the offense and get guys open shots, the guys on the team are starting to feed off of that [aggressiveness] and starting to trust me more to lead them."
Davis also has developed an obvious rapport with center Chris Kaman, who leads all centers in scoring with 19.8 points a game.
"The way Kaman is shooting the ball right now, he's an assist waiting to happen," Dunleavy said. "So either [Davis] beats them and attacks [the rim], or if they jump [him], he puts the ball on the money to [Kaman] and racks up the assists. They're getting better and better at it all the time.
"He just has a better feel for things all the way around."
And now, another memorable buzzer-beater to add to his collection.
Ramona Shelburne is a writer and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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