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T.J. SIMERS

Baron Davis says he's not dogging it

However, the Clippers' big free-agent acquisition has looked more like Andruw Jones than best in show.

February 22, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

I know dogs, so I stopped by to see Baron Davis.

The Clippers have built a very nice kennel, including a combination wood/glass trophy case for their so-called show dogs, which, almost needless to say, sits empty.

Tim Thomas called this home earlier this season. Bow wow, indeed. Now a suspended Zach Randolph resides here as well as so many other discarded players, including druggie Ricky Davis. The NBA's version of a pound, I guess.

When I arrived Saturday, Baron Davis was lying down, which is pretty much the position he has been in all year.

The Clippers signed him to a five-year deal for $65 million, and less than four months later there were rumors the team was trying to trade him to Houston or Dallas.

What a disaster, and four more years to go.

To date, Davis has been pulling an Andruw Jones. As chubby as the Dodgers' Tubby after signing with the team, Davis had a fling with Jenny Craig, dropped some poundage, but then like Jones, couldn't stay healthy.

There are currently 120 players in the NBA with a better shooting percentage than Davis, who is supposed to be All-Star material, and 126 with a better three-point shooting percentage.

Jones proved to be just no good with the Dodgers, while the suspicion here is Davis has been dogging it much of the year, as good a subject as any to begin an interview.

"Don't agree," he says. "At times I get frustrated and I wear my emotions on my sleeve, so people see it and think I'm dogging it.

"I've always been the aggressor in my career, but this year I'm passive. It's not dogging it, though, and I'm not a dog. But I just haven't been aggressive."

The other night against Phoenix in Staples Center, Davis looked like most Clippers fans, who were probably wishing they were anywhere else but in Staples Center. He appeared to be going through the motions while making almost no attempt to score until he angrily took exception with a defender's heavy-handed tactics.

Infuriated, he went on the offensive attack and for a few moments took over the game.

"It was a burst," he says. "I got upset, and decided to take things into my own hands."

And there you have it, Davis' Clippers highlights this season.

WHAT'S IT take to get Davis going all game long? I wore my USC sweat shirt for Saturday's interview, and the former Bruin couldn't take his eyes off the Trojans logo. He probably wishes he was playing for the Lakers now too.

I expected Davis to be magical when he came to town, while adding an air of respectability and competitiveness to the Clippers.

The Lakers opened the season by spanking the Clippers, Davis then tearing into his teammates and letting them know he expected so much more. The next game he got hurt, no one knowing it at the time, but the season over and Davis eventually curling up into a ball.

"I just haven't been able to be effective," he says. "I'm very frustrated, but I'm never going to let my spirit be broken."

He says he still wants to be here, which is hard to believe, knowing the report out of Golden State earlier that had him telling a teammate he made a mistake in signing with the Clippers.

He says he never said that, calling the former teammate who said so "crazy," and someone "who makes up things."

He says there is no problem between him and Coach Mike Dunleavy, although everyone else seems to think so.

He says he didn't like to hear the rumors that had him possibly being traded a few days ago, although it would have allowed him to escape this Clippers mess.

"I don't want to leave like this," he says. "I don't want to bail on the situation."

Watch him play these days, though, and it's tough to say whether he looks more bored or unhappy on the court.

THE PREVAILING opinion, or the one Dunleavy keeps repeating, is the Clippers will be really good when all their players are healthy again.

Dunleavy is both general manager and coach, so what else is he going to say? He put this mess together, and for the most part, it's a collection of losers and misfits.

The first thing the Clippers need to do is hire a GM, or a coach, splitting Dunleavy's job and adding more basketball knowledge to the front office.

The Clippers have a superstar in the making in Eric Gordon, Suns Coach Alvin Gentry the other day saying, "This kid is the best new talent in the league right now, and I don't care who else you mention."

But after that, it breaks down into a 13-42 record. Chris Kaman has never shown the individual makeup to play consistently, Al Thornton plays selfishly, Marcus Camby is solid but one-dimensional, can't tell you names of so many others in uniform, and players such as Randolph and the druggie were available to the Clippers because some teams think you win in the long run with character.

"I have a lot of character," Baron Davis says, and that was the word when he came to town and before lying down on the job.

Is he too distracted by all the off-the-court ventures that have him standing tall as businessman, moviemaker and community do-gooder?

"Fair question, but no," he says. "It's just on me."

And here's where it gets confusing, listening to Davis, who says he's trying to just fit in as one of the team's pieces, but he needs to be a leader, needs to be aggressive, but yet is passive.

"It is confusing," he admits. "But I went into the All-Star break telling myself I know I can do it. I know I can get there. It's been difficult with so many nagging injuries, but it's time I just take full control of this team.

"Basketball saved my life, and anything I can do to pay homage to the game and inspire people on the court, I want to do."

Good speech, and no reason why Davis can't be considered one of the top athletic entertainers in town -- right there with the Lakers' big three, Manny and Vlad.

But when?

"Starting [today]," he says, which is almost a good enough reason to tune in the Clippers' game today. Well, almost.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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