L.A. waited too long for real Baron Davis
It was, at long last, his finest moment.
As Blake Griffin soared to superstardom, Baron Davis delivered a perfect pass through the sunroof of a car, watched as Griffin finished off an iconic dunk, then cocked his head back in what can only be described as unfiltered joy.
Griffin had literally and figuratively soared over Davis as the Los Angeles Clippers' brightest star, and Davis couldn't be happier about it.
He'd waited for a moment like this as long as the Clippers had.
Which is, in the end, the entire problem.
It shouldn't have taken 2 1/2 seasons for Davis to be the player he'd once been in Golden State. For him to play inspired basketball and seem engaged in the season, as he so clearly was with Griffin as his muse.
But it took nearly three years for Davis to arrive at his shining moment, which is why it took the Clippers just three days to come to grips with trading him.
The fact the team included an unprotected lottery pick indicates that the decision to move Davis wasn't all that hard.
Davis had been a leader for the Clippers this season. He gamely played through injuries and helped the team's talented young core to grow from a 1-13 start to the season.
But three months of the kind of leadership and play the team had expected when it signed him in summer 2008, couldn't erase all that had come before it.
Davis' time with the Clippers was in many ways a failure to launch.
But the possibility of greatness dangled for too long before it was finally realized, albeit only in a few glimpses.
There were too many injuries and too much dysfunction.
It was hard to watch as Davis openly rankled under more restrictive systems of former coach Mike Dunleavy.
It was harder still to watch one of this generation's most creative, talented playmakers waste two of what should've been his prime seasons.
This isn't all on Davis. Dunleavy should've had a better plan for dealing with him -- or not signed him in the first place, despite what Elton Brand pushed for.
Davis' personality and reputation for moodiness was no secret in the NBA. Dunleavy knew what he was getting into, but convinced himself that he could make it work anyway.
It never did, of course.
The marriage was more of an arrangement than a loving connection. In the end, both sides were simply making the best of it.
It's sad to see this era end with Davis being traded to the NBA's version of Siberia, just as the Clippers are starting to take off.
He may have underperformed and pouted too often. There are those who will say he deserved to be sent away. That the Clippers would've kept him if he'd done what he was signed to do in 2008 the whole time he was here, and not just the last three months.
But you have to feel for any player cast out to such a pitiful situation.
It's even sadder Davis will spend what are likely the last productive seasons of his career playing for a team with such a huge mountain to climb.
For a kid who grew up in the shadow of the Great Western Forum and a man who still visited his grandmother in Compton every week, it's a shame for all involved that this homecoming went so wrong.
Baron Davis did finally have his shining moment.
But it was just a moment, gone too soon.Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow her on Twitter.