There is a fickle side to sports, one that can prop up an athlete up or humble him in one big swoop.
Take Paul Davis, the Clippers' second-year center from Michigan State.
For four years, Davis, Michigan's Mr. Basketball in 2002, lugged around the weight and hope of all of East Lansing on his 6-foot-11 frame, a burden he struggled to embrace until late in his college career.
He ended up excelling, deemed worthy enough to play in the NBA when the Clippers' took him with their second-round pick in the 2006 draft.
He spent most of his rookie season watching and waiting. He played in only 31 games and averaged 1.6 points after four years of using the bench mainly for timeout rests as a Spartan.
The transition was patchy at times, but Davis says he's better for it.
"For six, seven, eight years, you are the starter, the main guy through high school and college and then you've got to kind of find your role on an NBA team," Davis said.
"It was difficult, but the guys were great. The coaches helped out and made it easier."
A year later, Davis appears more ready, buoyed by strong play in the exhibition games.
"We have a lot of scorers, so really my thing is to get some rebounds, make good passes and hit open shots when I have them," Davis said.
"Just doing what I'm supposed to be doing and staying within my game."
His strongest exhibition game came against the Lakers on Sunday. He made five of eight shots, scoring 15 points and grabbing five rebounds in 27 minutes.
He hustled for loose balls and rebounds and was 15 for 15 from the free-throw line before missing his first attempt in a 92-90 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.
"He had a good summer," Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "He is a guy that can get rebounds and shoot the ball and do some things for us."
Over the summer, Davis played in a charity exhibition game co-chaired by Yao Ming and Steve Nash in China and averaged 12.6 points in the Vegas Summer League.
"I made it a point to stay in Los Angeles," said Davis, who dropped his body fat down to 6%. "I just worked out every day and worked on my low-post game as well as my shot. My biggest thing was working on my body and getting in shape."
Tim Thomas made a 16-foot jumper at the top of the key with 12.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter to give the Clippers the win.
Chris Kaman scored 19 points and Cuttino Mobley added 11.
Kaman made eight of 12 shots and grabbed nine rebounds.
Mike Bibby made six of nine three-point attempts and scored a game-high 28 points for the Kings.
Mobley, Davis, Kaman, Sam Cassell and Quinton Ross started. The Clippers blocked 13 shots and Kaman and Ross each blocked three.
Forward Corey Maggette did not play because of a bruised tailbone sustained at Tuesday's practice. He said he should be able to play Friday against the Golden State Warriors in the team's final exhibition game. Forward Aaron Williams (calf strain) also did not play.