LOS ANGELES -- Way back in 2002, when Baron Davis first flirted with joining the Los Angeles Clippers, most people scoffed at it as mere jive. No way would an All-Star like Baron Davis sink so low as to consider joining such a moribund organization.
You might have thought Baron was kidding or using it merely as a negotiating ploy to drive up his price with the then-Charlotte Hornets. I knew it was no joke. No ruse. No trick. B was serious.
|Baron Davis finally gets his wish to play in his native Los Angeles. (Getty Images)|
Sadly, after consulting with team management, Gentry had to tell Davis that a max deal would not be forthcoming. So, Davis re-upped with the Hornets for a six-year contract, in the area code of $87 million.
But he never let his passion die for wanting to play in his hometown of Los Angeles. Not even when a midseason trade in 2005 moved him from New Orleans (where the Hornets had relocated in 2002-03) to the Golden State Warriors, a mere 55-minute flight from Oakland to Los Angeles or a $140 car trip, with today's gas prices.
So when the news broke late Tuesday that Davis had agreed to a five-year, $65 million contract to sign with the Clippers -- after opting out of the final year of his contract with the Warriors and leaving $17,810,000 on the table -- many might have been surprised. But not me.
Baron never has been one to go with the popular sway. Not back in 1997, when the current trend in Southern California was for the blue-chip basketball players to accept scholarships out of state, like to North Carolina, Duke or Syracuse. Not B. He stayed home to attend school and play basketball at UCLA, which had a good but not great program at the time.
"A pro, even before you joined the NBA," is what I told Baron one day, very early in his days with the Hornets. And I meant it in all the positive ways, on how he went about preparing for his job, how hard he competed on the floor, how he stayed actively involved in his community, how he pursued business opportunities outside of basketball and how he conducted himself with the media and others whom he had to deal with in his chosen profession.
To say that Baron knows everyone might even be an understatement because it seems as though he does. From the Hollywood mogul to the concession-stand worker at the Magic Johnson Theaters and all in between. Jessica Alba. Ashton Kutcher ... they're all personal friends of Davis, as well as Malik grinding away at that 9-to-5.
One can imagine the Clippers instructing the camera operators now to pan the crowd, seeking out celebrities, the way the Lakers traditionally do, at the end of every third quarter. Staples Center could once again be awash in a sea of red, like it was two years ago.
And Baron is fiercely loyal.
Big-time producer Cash Warren, the son of actor and former UCLA basketball star Mike Warren, is a close friend of Davis. Cash and B go back to the time when they attended Crossroads High in Santa Monica. They've already collaborated on one major project, with more sure to come.
B's workout partner and part-time trainer? Rico Hines, who was his teammate at UCLA.