Baron Davis turned 38 just a week or so ago, on April 13, and, naturally, thinking of him put a smile on your face.
It’s funny, you’d come to know and think of Baron Davis as the point guard who never stopped smiling; but the first time you really recall him, he wasn’t.
You were just a teenager, then following the NBA and running home from high school at least once a week to see if the latest SLAM magazine was out. Sixteen years old, you were just beginning to become the person you would become and mostly that came in the form of you showcasing what and who you loved. And you loved basketball, so you read those magazines without fault.
You’d read these for the features, the writing, sure, cause you wanted to go into writing but you also “read” them to move to the next step, i.e. tearing off the cover page and hanging it on your wall. You had them all, the AI one, KG, MJ, Shaq, etc., and then on that day in April 2002 the one with Baron. That issue was with both the Charlotte PG and Paul Pierce on the cover, but your choice was never really up for debate. The Truth this, that, whatever.
No B Diddy, bruh. Smiling—well, mean-mugging on this particular photo but smiling everywhere else.
Davis came to the NBA out of UCLA and joined the Charlotte Hornets as the third pick after Elton Brand and Steve Francis—Davis got jobbed, I don’t care what you say GTFO—in the 1999 NBA Draft. As it is with most, his rookie season was less than stellar: with just 18.6 minutes played per game, that he averaged a shade under six points per game was a minor miracle.
But by his sophomore season? Yeah, B Diddy was cooking. He made the 2002 and 2004 All-Star teams, deserved to win the 2001 NBA Dunk Contest and was good for 22 points, 4 rebounds and 8 assists in his prime. He was, for the most part, just a perfectly great and excellent NBA point guard at a time when the position’s boon hadn’t yet happened.
You knew all that then, and it was all cool, but your love story with Baron didn’t come until a few years later.
It didn’t come until your Golden State Warriors fleeced, like, 18 teams in a row to bring to the Bay area the core of who would become the We Believe Warriors. Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington and of course, Baron Davis to go with Jason Richardson, Matt Barnes, Mickael Pietrus, Monta Ellis, the mad scientist, head coach Donnie Nelson, and Andris Biedrins. (A quick aside: you would call Biedrins Prom King ‘cause he always spiked his hair, the same way you would as a teen.)
These Warriors were the Good kid, mAAd City to the current DAMN. iteration of the franchise. (Hey, we’ve all been listening to Kendrick Lamar lately.) You recall fondly those 2006-2009 teams ‘cause you were instantly hooked, a believer. Much like Baron and his All-Star Game snubs in these years, these Warriors have been a little forgotten but their stars still shine as bright as ever in your heart. And Baron was the team’s brightest star.
Maybe it isn’t always true that a team takes after its point guard, but Golden State sure did. If such a thing exists, they played Smile basketball at the Oracle. They never played perfect basketball, and maybe it really was Captain Jack who unlocked the potential to G-State, but these Warriors went as Baron did. And they didn’t always put it together, but when they did they could take on the world.
OH! Baron! Shoves it down! On Kirilenko’s Head!
You were a 20-some-year old then with your ugly Warriors jersey with “DAVIS” and “NO. 5” on the back, and had already developed the character and personality that would make you the man you are today, but you were still working out the kinks then. Much like Baron, who always felt like more than just an NBA player, who felt like he knew he was playing a goddamn game for a living. Basketball isn’t life or death; life or death was what happened off the court, but not on the court. Baron knew he was lucky, so he smiled.
But behind the smile was the story of a kid who grew up with his grandma in South Central Los Angeles and who’d walk from school while dribbling a basketball every step of the way, a kid who eventually transferred to Crossroads where he became friends and classmates with Kate Hudson and Cash Warren. There was the story of the kid who grew up around gangs and gangbangers but who managed to escape, to his refuge and safe haven. To his basketball court.
Davis was beloved in the Bay Area, but he would botch his exit from there; in chasing one big payday at 29 years old, he went from Golden State to his native LA to supposedly make a new superteam with Elton Brand in 2008, only no one had told the Clippers forward who left for Philadelphia.
Davis would (rollerskate and) play two+ mostly average seasons with the then-Donald Sterling’s team, leaving the Clippers in 2011 for the Cleveland Cavaliers as the 31-year-old point-guard stick to go with the sweetener of a first round pick (hi, Kyrie Irving!).
The ebullient player who had arrived in the NBA as a beaming sophomore college player had stayed around too long. He had wanted to chase and capture those fleeting moments of joy but he never could. Instead, he had become the butt of the joke; he had become the salary dump, a fate that befell many an NBA player before and since.
But that smile? The smile followed wherever Baron went, even to New York for a miserable stint (hey, it’s the Knicks!) that ended in the worst possible way in the first round of the NBA playoffs: an ACL and MCL tear in his right knee, as well as a tear of his patellar tendon. You squirm reading this, but Baron smiled.
Followed the above mockumentary “Yes really, but not really” NBA comeback video series, in which you saw the future of your favourite player. Despite the occasional One more chance headline, and the contract with the D-League team, Baron never came back to the NBA.
Instead, he’s turned to videos, films, art, etc., and has started making movies. His feature on your favourite player’s favourite summer League, the Drew League, has generally been considered a rousing success and may or may not 😉 be available for streaming online. It’s on Showtime too, if you have a subscription—though here’s the trailer.
In the end, these pseudo mockumentary-style movies about his NBA comeback are a good microcosm of Baron’s NBA career. There were just cheesy and flawed enough that you couldn’t fully take them seriously but you couldn’t really escape them either. And that’s how you like it, messy and just overall fun. And anyway, there was still a TON of things to like in there and some real moments and, like, have you even seen that smile?!
But now Baron’s moved on, to The Drew and elsewhere. He’s still smiling. He’s rocking the Jheri Curl too, but focus on the smile.
“Basketball is the savior. I would always find my place of refuge & my peace being on the 🏀 court.” #TheDrew
— SHOWTIME SPORTS (@SHOsports) April 13, 2017
Year 15 | A Mini Documentary
Something Out of Nothing
It’s March 2016, and I’m driving with Alan Shane Lewis to Montreal to meet with Marc Griffin and Phil Boileau. We’re meeting to speak about this exciting new idea I pitched to them. We were tired of spinning the wheels on our own individual internet shows, and I told them that it was time we stopped waiting for a network and became the network.
We spoke that weekend about creating a community of content creators that all loved ball and came together to make unique content with unique voices – voices we felt were never heard in the mainstream. This community was the base of Press and we’d continue to push forward from that spot. We spoke about some amazing show ideas, article ideas, social media plan. It was truly an exciting time, and still one of the best weekends of my life.
Two years later and that group is a lot smaller, and that idea is Press Basketball.
It caught fire at the beginning and we had people joining our bright shiny new plaything left, right, and center. It was exciting, but now I kind of realize that a lot of it was just that we were that “bright shiny new thing”.
We ended up with a lot of Press Basketball “members” but when I stepped back and looked at what was happening… it wasn’t what I’d imagined. The fire burned out. The idea was gone. We had just become another thing trying to stay alive, waiting for some deus ex machina to show up with money and make everything okay.
I’ve gone through most of my life making something out of nothing. It’s never easy, but when it happens it’s always worth it… ALWAYS. Press made me feel alive at a point. It was literally all I could think about, and while it still is on my mind, it doesn’t make me feel alive. This hurts more than I can ever explain.
Changes are coming my friends. We’re not laying down and dying, and if we do it’s not going to be like this.
The core of Press will be setting fire to a lot over the next few weeks and I personally can’t wait for this to start. From the ashes something new will rise (I watched a lot of XMEN growing up).
Stay tuned, because it’s not over.
Lonzo Ball: The New Face of the Lakers
Lonzo Ball is the new face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. The new savior. The Big Baller Brand is now here to stay and LaVar Ball’s family’s future is set. But is that enough?
Lonzo Ball is a great kid and athlete who knows his talent will take him to another level. The major question mark that remains is whether or not he will take the Lakers there as well. He has the platform and skillset to do so, but with that comes the added pressure from the city and league to basically become part of the next version of Kobe and Shaq. It’s too strainful for a young kid—a rookie—to achieve.
Magic Johnson, the recently named President of Basketball of Operations for the Lakers, is taking an aggressive approach to get this team back into playoff contention his first year in. One of his first moves was sending D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick. Brook Lopez is definitely an upgrade at center, but has a couple of years already under his belt.
Lopez will provide a much needed veteran presence with a great IQ for the game at his position. The only downfall is that a couple of years under his belt doesn’t really transfer to great experience, but simply wasted miles on his body. He isn’t as quick as he used to be and doesn’t even rank in the top 10 centers in the league. In fact, Bleacher Report had him last season at exactly 15 out of the top 30 centers in the NBA. While he is has improved by adding the three-point range to his arsenal, there is no doubt that he is nearly past his prime, and although he can still contribute on a nightly basis, who knows how much and what effect it will have with Lonzo Ball running the point.
Ball has great court vision that has been often compared to that of LeBron James. Combined with his passing skills, he is a true PG with tremendous upside in the backcourt. With that being said, he will only reach a certain extent. His full potential is years from being maximized and people are buying into it early on. In fact, the pressure for him to lift a sub .500 team to the playoffs for the first time in five years is daunting.
These are Lonzo Ball’s stats during his rookie—and only—year at UCLA:
- 14.6 Points
- 7.6 Assists
- 6.0 Rebounds
- 1.8 Steals
- 0.8 Blocks
- 55.1 FG%
- 41.2 3P%
He did a tremendous job maintaining that statline and even added a triple-double in the NBA Summer League, earning him the Summer League MVP.
Don’t get me wrong, Ball seems ready for the challenge and is definitely a one-of-a-kind talent mirroring that of Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, but he is not an All-Star or MVP—at least, not yet. These way-too-early predictions that he is the Lakers’ new savior are farfetched. He has yet to face the elite NBA offensive threats and superstars that have been at it for 10-plus years. Defensively speaking he will not be able to keep up. Not in his first year. He still needs NBA experience and a more rounded roster to be able to reach the playoffs.
He is off to a good start, but being named NBA Summer League MVP doesn’t necessarily mean a spectacular season is coming as some think it does. Especially if you consider the previous Summer League MVP winners.
|2012||Damian Lillard (co-MVPs)||PG||Portland Trail Blazers|
|Josh Selby (co-MVPs)||PG||Memphis Grizzlies|
|2013||Jonas Valančiūnas||C||Toronto Raptors|
|2014||Glen Rice Jr.||SG||Washington Wizards|
|2015||Kyle Anderson||SF||San Antonio Spurs|
|2016||Tyus Jones||PG||Minnesota Timberwolves|
|2017||Lonzo Ball||PG||Los Angeles Lakers|
With the exceptions of Damian Lillard in 2012 and Jonas Valanciunas in 2013, the past five Summer League MVP winners have gone on to produce very mediocre NBA careers. All I’m saying is, don’t read too much into NBA Summer League. It’s the pre-preseason that no one really watches or cares about.
The NBA season is nearing—exactly a month away—and my somewhat harsh criticism of Lonzo Ball isn’t too cruel. I am just not ready to jump on the Ball bandwagon following LaVar’s prophecies of his son being the Lakers prodigal son. He won’t be. Again, at least not yet. He needs to earn his spot and the transition will surprise him his first year in. It will hit him hard, but, despite my concerns, eventually Lonzo Ball will become a future NBA All-Star and a daring NBA point guard.
Not yet though, and until then all we can do is prepare for his official NBA debut. Until then, we can enjoy and bask in his newly released rap single paying tribute to his little brother LaMelo Ball.
If the NBA doesn’t end up being his calling in life, at least he has a back up career in mind.
Year 15 | A Mini Documentary
An Ode to the 2007-2008 Warriors
USA VS EVERYBODY | The Break | Episode 17
Trading Places | The Break | Episode 18
February Fouls | The Break | Episode 16
Christmas Day Showdowns | The Break | Episode 10
Western Conference Preview | The Break | Episode 1
Eastern Conference Preview | The Break | Episode 2
NBA & More Mailbag with Josh Howe — TWT 102
Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview with Keith Parish — TWT 101
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