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Rarely, if ever, do I feel sorry for a guy making $13 million a year. Heck, I'd be living in utopia with a $50,000 annual salary.
But my feelings don't have stringent rules, so I'm making the rare exception tonight: Baron Davis got screwed, and I feel for him. There, I said it.
If I were Davis, this is what I would have done when I learned, Tuesday night, that soon-to-be Los Angeles Clippers teammate Elton Brand was ditching me for the East Coast, specifically Philadelphia:
I would have put my head in my hands, shed some tears and asked myself, "Why??? Why did I leave more money and talent in the Bay Area for what now resembles a mediocre team in the Dominant West??
"Maybe I should quit basketball for my budding producing career."
Seriously. When Davis shocked Golden State by leaving for the Clippers last week, he did it with the understanding that Brand -- who, like Davis, opted out of his contract -- would re-sign with L.A. to form one of the NBA's premier inside-outside duos.
In fact, everyone thought Brand would return. When he opted out of his contract, he said he intended to stay with the team. He just wanted more talent, specifically Davis, to help the Clippers be competitive in the Western Conference. The franchise, of course, hasn't always done nearly enough to put a decent product on the floor. But Brand got his wish in Davis, a dynamic point guard who can do it all -- score, pass, run the fastbreak and bring attention to LA's "other team."
The table was set for the resurgence of the Clippers -- or maybe "surgence," since they've never been any good.
And now? They'll be lucky to finish in the West's top 10 or 11. And that's even if they're able to snag high-flying power forward Josh Smith from Atlanta.
To add to Davis' misery -- and don't let him tell you he feels otherwise -- one of the Clippers' best scorers, Corey Maggette, bolted for Davis' former team, verbally agreeing to a contract with the Warriors on the same day as Brand's committment to the 76ers. Maggette's departure was expected, but combined with Brand's shocking decision, it had to be a double punch to the gut for Davis.
Recently, Davis was featured in "ESPN The Magazine" asking Kobe Bryant how to build a championship-caliber team. Last week, he put Bryant's advice in action, sacraficing money -- he could have earned $17.8 million next season with Golden State -- to join what he thought was a winning situation.
Now, all Davis can point to -- at least positively -- is that he's still moving home, and his production company should benefit from his relocation.
But he won't win more games with the Clippers than he did with Golden State, and there's no way the style of play will be as loose and fun under Mike Dunleavy's watch as it was, for the most part, under Don Nelson. Davis and Nelson did tangle at the end of last season, but primarily it was a good relationship and the Warriors played the loosest, shoot-whenever-you-want style in the NBA.
Plus, Clippers fans can't compare to those rowdy, yellow-shirt-wearing Warriors followers.
What, basketball-wise, could possibly be good about the move now? Let me try some things:
-- Davis is definitely the franchise player for the Clippers. He'll be on the cover of the media guy.
... Davis was the franchise player for the Warriors. Nothing new about this.
... Wait. Didn't Davis have, like, five of these guys with the Warriors?
OK, I give up. There really are no positives except that the Clippers have cap space to go after Smith. But the Hawks could match any offer sheet L.A. makes, and even if Smith did decide to leave, he's no Elton Brand -- not even close. He can jump really high, but his post moves are as honed as Ben Wallace's free throws.
At the moment, and at least until the summer of 2009, the 29-year-old Davis is in a worse basketball situation than he was just days ago.
He was abandoned by Brand, who got A) more money; and B) the chance to fly away to the Leastern Conference. Brand's Sixers will more than likely make the playoffs in '09 and possibly even win a series or two. Their future looks bright at the moment.
As for Davis'?
Well, maybe he should focus more on his production company.
Because he sure won't be winning any championships with his new team.