When former Crossroads School and UCLA basketball star Baron Davis was traded to the Golden State Warriors in late February, it was a story of local significance.
Not only did Davis begin to gain recognition in the sport in Santa Monica in the late 1990s, his arrival in Oakland had the potential of bringing that lowly team up to the level of the Lakers. Neither team would make the playoffs this season, but it suddenly made sense to believe the teams could be equal next season, or maybe the Warriors could be better.
The Mirror covered the story then, but it was impossible to forecast the impact Davis would have on the Warriors.
Golden State won’t make the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season but the Warriors are 15-7 since Davis was acquired from New Orleans, including eight consecutive wins.
Last week, when Golden State won its sixth straight game, Davis scored a career high 40 points against Houston and had 13 assists.
Fans at the Oakland Arena shouted “MVP” and gave him a standing ovation.
In the next game, Davis produced 22 points and 11 assists in a win at Portland. Then he had 15 points, 15 assists and nine rebounds in a home win over first place Phoenix.
Now 25, Davis is a powerfully built 6-foot-2 guard with the ability to penetrate opponents’ defenses. On the nights his outside shot is going in, he’s extremely hard to stop and he’s an excellent passer.
The penetrating ability is something he had at Crossroads. I saw him for the first time in a game at Beverly Hills High. Jim Harrick, then the UCLA coach, was at the same game and immediately decided Davis was a player he wanted in Westwood.
Davis was a star at UCLA and an early entrant into the NBA draft. He became an NBA all-star with the Hornets, who first played in Charlotte, then moved to New Orleans. But Davis was injured this season and the Hornets decided to deal him just ahead of the NBA trading deadline. Upon arrival in Oakland, Davis expressed his happiness with the trade.
Now he thinks the Warriors are on the verge of becoming a playoff team.
“I don’t think we’re a surprise anymore,’’ said Davis. “At the beginning, people thought maybe it was a fluke. Now they’re starting to see our weapons.”
The weapons include high-scoring Jason Richardson, who teams with Davis in the backcourt, and talented young forwards Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Troy Murphy.
Although it’s unlikely the Warriors can get out of last place in the Pacific Division in the remaining few days of the season, they’ve closed a considerable deficit to the Lakers and Clippers to three games.
The fans in Oakland are convinced Golden State would have made this season’s playoffs if they had acquired Davis sooner.
“His leadership is the key,’’ said Warriors coach Mike Montgomery. “He’s a true point guard with the ability to make other players better.”While becoming an NBA all-star Davis hasn’t forgotten his roots. He annually participates in a basketball camp at Crossroads.