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Warriors' Davis to stop caring, let someone else lead

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."