Warriors' Davis to stop caring, let someone else lead

Updated: October 2, 2006, 10:19 PM ET
Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Baron Davis has good news for the Golden State Warriors' long-suffering fans: Their star guard will try not to care so much this season, and he isn't really interested in being a team leader.

Baron Davis
Davis

Yes, Davis insists this is all good news for the Warriors, who opened their first training camp of coach Don Nelson's second stint with the club Monday.

Davis got his new outlook on life and basketball during a summer conversation with Shaquille O'Neal, who gave some interesting advice to the frustrated scorer over lunch in Los Angeles.

"He told me that I'll become a great player once I stop caring so much," Davis said. "You know, stop forcing myself: 'You've got to do this. You've got to work out.' If I just love what I do, then everything else will take its course. ... Every time I'm on the floor, I'm enjoying my time. Being injured, it can be taken away. I respect that. I appreciate that."

Golden State's only former All-Star is fit, rested and ready after losing 15 pounds since last season. He played just 54 games before missing most of the second half of the Warriors' 12th straight losing campaign with a sprained ankle.

And Davis seems ready to redefine his career, which mostly has been about big point totals for mediocre teams so far. He is thrilled to be a main scorer in Nelson's up-tempo offense, and believes Golden State has the talent to make the playoffs with a new system and a new direction.

"[Shaq] told me that I'll become a great player once I stop caring so much. You know, stop forcing myself: 'You've got to do this. You've got to work out.' If I just love what I do, then everything else will take its course. ... Every time I'm on the floor, I'm enjoying my time."
-- Baron Davis

But don't label Davis as Golden State's leader -- a role he sought last season while struggling to understand his role in former coach Mike Montgomery's on-court plans. With his new attitude, he doesn't think the Warriors will improve until he takes care of himself.

"I don't care whose team it is," he said. "That's just not where I'm at with it any more. Whoever steps up and becomes the leader on this team, that's what it is. I think we're all leaders in different facets of the game. I don't care. It's not my team. It's Coach Nelson's team, and I'm here to play."

He's eager to erase memories of last season, which he called "the most frustrating of my career, besides my rookie year."

Golden State went 34-48 under Montgomery, a career college coach who clearly never commanded Davis' respect. Though Davis won't criticize Montgomery overtly, he's much happier with a respected, veteran pro coach in charge.

"I'm willing to follow anybody who's capable of leading," Davis said. "My will is strong, but I'm a great listener. That's the only way you become a very good basketball player. You have to have the ability to listen and follow the right people."

The seven-year veteran finished with his lowest scoring average in a half-decade last season, but finished second in the NBA with a career-high 8.9 assists per game. The losing wore on every player -- and Davis even felt it from his spot on the bench.

"I want to have the most fun I can possibly have."
-- Baron Davis

"The NBA season is a long season," he said. "Sometimes you get to the point when you can't take this, and you lash out. I think everybody on this team started to lash out in their own way, whether it was not saying something, or saying something, but it affected the way we played. That's why we were so inconsistent last year, because we were not a happy team.

"I want to have the most fun I can possibly have."

Warriors fans might say Davis already seemed to be enjoying himself -- and that was one of their biggest problems.

His game was a compelling combination of excitement and irresponsibility last season, when he led the Warriors to a series of big wins with his impressive playmaking and his indefatigable will to score. But he made just 38.9 percent of his shots last season, worst among Golden State's regulars, and launched more than his share of the Warriors' 1,832 3-pointers.

Davis rested his ankle and sore body until late August, when he began participating in pickup games near his offseason home in Las Vegas with Chauncey Billups, Tyronn Lue, Al Harrington and other pros.

"You don't really miss it until you can't play," Davis said. "Just knowing I'm going to be called upon to do different things, I think it's great. We all need to be challenged to grow our game."

Though Nelson and Davis have known each other for just a few days, the point guard already feels he'll be comfortable working for a coach with more wins than anybody who ever sat on an NBA bench except Lenny Wilkens.

"[Playing] against teams he's coached, I'd always be like, 'Wow, I wish we played like that,"' Davis said. "It's a challenge because it's a style that I've never played. It's something that I'm definitely looking forward to."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press