Baron Davis is not a moody, drama-driven, injury-prone talent of a point guard living on the lunatic fringe, after all. He is a moody, drama-driven, injury-prone talent of a point guard who nailed it.
He read the market, listened to the right people, even when the truly right person probably was someone else's agent, and beat the system. In a league and in a summer when no one in their right mind would walk away from $17.8 million, Davis opted out of his Warriors contract and quickly agreed to a deal with the Clippers that will pay $65 million over five years.
Less money in the short term, a lot more in long-term security than perhaps would have been available as a free agent in 2009, immeasurable vindication. Wounded when Golden State refused to voluntarily give him an extension last offseason, Davis played his one card this time, opted out with the certainty of someone who had a clear idea of his next step, and put the pressure on the Warriors to deliver or else.
Welcome to "or else."
Davis, from a long interview in Oakland eight months ago, when asked about emotions of not getting the commitment from management in summer '07: "It hurt. It hurt. It hurt deep down inside. I can't say that it didn't hurt. But I guess it's the business of basketball. But I give my heart and my soul to this team and this organization. I leave it at that."
The Warriors will almost certainly retain restricted free agents Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins and will become the team with the real spending power to attract others on the market, but it's impossible to lose your leading scorer and a locker-room leader without compensation and not have a welt. Where they go from here has unexpectedly become one of the league's biggest storylines.
Elton Brand is an unlikely recovery, even as news reports of the day say Golden State is grabbing stacks of money to make him a huge offer. Brand's departure from the Clippers would be shocking since he presumably was part of the scenario that got Davis to L.A.
Everything traces back to David Falk, Brand's rep and one of the all-time agent power players in any sport. The Clippers could not plot with Davis or his agent, Todd Ramasar, ahead of time, but Falk could. Agent-to-agent does not violate tampering rules, and Falk knows how to build a roster. He wanted to build one around his client because Brand was entirely open to staying with the Clips as long as there was reason to believe.
Brand has a good relationship with Clippers management, Falk has a greatly improved relationship with Clippers management, and let's just say the front office there hasn't heard that a lot through the years. So no one was looking for the escape hatch. Brand just didn't want to be the guy welcoming top-seven lottery picks for the next six years.
Davis is that signal for Brand, the Clips' answer at point guard and for a playoff-tested veteran, and Brand may take less money to get Davis in the fold. It was just 14 months ago that Baron was a star of the playoffs, leading the Warriors past the Mavericks in the first round before they lost to the Jazz in a credible showing in the second round that included Davis posterizing Andrei Kirilenko posterizing on a historically massive dunk.
Ball in the right hand, Davis' right arm fully extended back in a windup motion as he leaps toward the rim. Left hand and arm smashed against Kirilenko's face to clear a path.
Now the Warriors know the feeling.