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Davis expects tough task ahead with the Clippers

Veteran guard says he wants to see what he has to offer new team.

October 29, 2008|Lisa Dillman | Dillman is a Times staff writer.

The omnipresent sweats will come off and the beard just might too, and then, a lighter Baron Davis will be ready for his long-awaited star turn with the Clippers tonight at Staples Center, a few jump shots away from Hollywood.

This buildup to the Clippers' season opener has hardly been of the red-carpet variety because of Davis' sprained left ring finger casting a shadow over the preseason and raising questions about his availability.

Davis said in a wide-ranging interview Tuesday after practice that he thought he could work through the pain tonight against the Lakers, saying he could "be good at [playing] 30 minutes now."

Finally, Davis was able to take part in a full session after injuring his finger Oct. 17, when he broke his fall in practice.

"I want to be smart about it and give my finger enough time to heal, but at the same time, I've practiced the last couple of days," Davis said. "I just want to go out there and see how it feels. Just being able to tolerate pain, that's about it."

Coach Mike Dunleavy said he expected Davis and forward Tim Thomas to be ready to play tonight and considered Marcus Camby (bruised right heel) "very doubtful."

Davis' low-key approach in October has been by design. Davis opted out of the final year of his contract with the Golden State Warriors in July to sign a $65-million, five-year deal with the Clippers.

On Monday, he had spoken about once being uncomfortable on the red carpet, years ago, not feeling as though he had done anything to deserve star treatment. Davis, though on a different level, was taking a similar measured approach in his return home to the Los Angeles area.

"I want to get to the season and see what I've got to offer," Davis said. "From that point, then let the city get a glimpse of what we have in store. There's a certain way to do it. I want to do the work first before I take credit for anything.

"I haven't done anything but just come to the Clippers. First we want to make this team an exciting team to watch and a team that has an attitude of playing hard and giving your all every night. That's what we have to establish first."

That won't be easy by any measure. On the defensive end, the Clippers will greatly miss the looming presence of Camby, who could sit out the first several games.

Injuries have been an all-too-common theme with the Clippers. They won 23 games last season after finishing 40-42 in 2006-07.

"If we all stay healthy . . . we have a great potential on paper," said center Chris Kaman, one of five holdovers from last season.

"Our paper never seems to correlate well on the court and in real-life situations, so hopefully the paper matches up."

The Warriors opened 0-7 last season, and Davis had thought that was a tough schedule until he looked at the Clippers' 2008-09 assignment, calling it the toughest one in his career.

"We're going to hit some bumps early because we lost the preseason," Davis said. "Our first 20 opponents are pretty much all playoff teams. So we're going to be battle-tested early. We just have to be able to weather that storm."

Davis looked pleased when told that Dunleavy recently called him the best point guard he has coached since Magic Johnson. Davis idolized Johnson growing up and said he once had a figurine of him next to his bed.

"That's a lot coach, that's a lot of pressure," Davis said. "I don't think there ever will be another guy in this league, at 6-9, to play all five positions. He just wasn't a point guard, he was a phenomenal, dominant player.

"If I can be just a shadow, 10% of what Magic was for this league . . . and what he did for the Lakers, I feel that I'll have definitely a Hall of Fame career. Magic Johnson was somebody I always idolized. To come here and to be the Magic Johnson of the Clippers. . . . "

Davis chuckled at the thought.

"That's something that, obviously, I want to kind of change that look, change that face, the same way Magic did for the Lakers," he said.


There are about 1,400 tickets remaining for tonight's game, the Clippers said. The prices range from $37.50 to $225.


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