- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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New Orleans guard Baron Davis returned to practice Monday and told ESPN.com afterward that last week's criticism from coach Byron Scott about the speed of his recovery from an ankle injury made him feel unwanted by the Hornets.
Yet Davis insists he won't push for a deal before Thursday's trade deadline and that he'll have no problems playing for Scott, even though Davis said they didn't speak at Monday's workout.
"I think it is getting to a point to where I just don't feel like I'm wanted (by New Orleans)," Davis said Monday night. "I have a great relationship with my teammates, but at certain times I do feel that way -- I'm not going to lie. But I'm here to play basketball and play as hard as I can. Once I'm 100 percent and back on the court, Byron will coach and I'll respect him as my coach. I'm going to listen to my coach like I've always done."
Davis' name has been mentioned in trade speculation since the summer, when his agent, Todd Ramasar, suggested Davis was disappointed by the Hornets' quiet offseason and might seek a trade elsewhere. Myriad injuries (back, ankle and heel) have subsequently sidelined the former All-Star for 36 of New Orleans' first 53 games.
Davis, 25, left the team for Los Angeles earlier this month to rehabilitate the heel and ankle while the Hornets were away on a West Coast trip. Just before the All-Star break, with Davis scheduled to rejoin the club Feb. 11, Davis suggested he might benefit from more rehab time in L.A. to improve his lateral movement. Scott angrily sent word to Davis to stay in his hometown.
"I wasn't happy and I didn't want to hear any more, so I said, 'Let him stay in L.A. and do whatever he's doing,'" Scott said. "There was no reason for him to be here, honestly, the way guys are connecting right now."
Jamal Mashburn, who might never play again because of ongoing knee trouble, faced similar criticism from the Hornets last season for rehabbing at home near Miami instead of in New Orleans with the Hornets. Davis, though, said he would have returned to the team if he had been summoned back and came away "shocked" by Scott's contention that the 11-42 Hornets -- 9-13 since Jan. 7 -- might not need him around now.
"I was just shocked because it was a (knock) on my character," Davis said. "I've always been a person to play hurt. I've played hurt in the playoffs. So I was a little upset at first, but at the same time, that's his opinion.
"I came back today because I'm getting closer to playing, so I felt it's good to be back with my team and let them see my progress, even though nobody called and asked me about it. I am on the right path. Everything is getting stronger. But I'm not going to rush back for anybody if I feel like I'm not ready," he said.
In spite of the injuries, Davis said he weighs about 215 lbs., roughly 10 lbs. below his listed weight. Although no concrete trade scenario has materialized, the feeling among some general managers is that the Hornets might be more open to trading Davis than they have been recently given the progress of recent pickup Dan Dickau.
Of course, given the four seasons and $63 million left on Davis' contract, New Orleans could just as easily decide it has little hope of getting good value for its big-name point guard because of the recent health issues and try to rebuild around Davis, youngsters J.R. Smith and Dickau and center Jamaal Magliore, another recent All-Star. Magliore has played just 11 games this season because of a broken finger.
If a trade is in the works this week, Davis said he has no inkling.
"My main thing right now," he said, "is just getting back out on that court and showing people I'm still one of the best players in this league."