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Baron Davis remains the key to the Clippers

CLIPPERS FYI

Blake Griffin has huge upside, but Davis, the veteran point guard, controls the flow as the team begins the NBA season against Portland.

October 26, 2010|By Lisa Dillman

This season, most assuredly, will be different for the Clippers.

But how can that be said with any certainty on the eve of their NBA season opener Wednesday at Staples Center against Portland?

Well, here's one difference: They won't open their season against the Lakers, the way they did the last two campaigns. Those two seasons started with a thud, with the Clippers going 0-4 last season and 0-6 in 2008-09.

Not that Brandon Roy, old friend Marcus Camby and the Trail Blazers are pushovers, and, in fact, Portland has often been a problematic matchup for the Clippers. But they aren't the Lakers.

The Clippers have been idle, in terms of preseason games, for more than a week. Point guard Baron Davis was asked if there were any other areas he felt that the team needed work in terms of preparation.

"The only thing is just the short amount of time period we've been together as a team," he said. "That's about it.

"I think the preseason was good for us to see where we were individually, see where we were collectively and what we need to work on. Now that the season is here we can start building."

Davis, who is heading into his third season with the Clippers, said the chemistry is evolving. That is no small issue considering there are eight newcomers on the roster, including four rookies — Blake Griffin, Eric Bledsoe, Willie Warren and Al-Farouq Aminu — and a new coach in Vinny Del Negro.

With all of the soaring optimism around Griffin, the bottom line is that Davis will determine the Clippers' fortunes this season, by virtue of his position and personality.

"I always tell everybody, Baron is kind of the key to this team," Clippers center Chris Kaman said. "He's been, the last two years, the key to this team. We kind of go on his pace and he sets the tone for this team and that's why he's so important. I think he realizes it.

"If he doesn't, then he's going to figure it out sooner or later. We kind of play off him."

Davis has been more subdued this preseason. The coaching staff said he needed to get in shape and said so publicly. How far he has come in that regard will be clearer, starting Wednesday.

"I think he's a bit more focused and he's done a good job to get himself in better shape this preseason," Kaman said. "When he's in good shape, he's a monster. He can pretty much do it all — pass, shoot, score and knows how to make plays for other people.

"If you've got a healthy Baron who's in great shape, you've got a great player."

Davis spoke about how he thought his role would differ under new Del Negro, saying: "I think he's going to allow me to be more creative out there on the floor, more aggressive, just kind of lead the team on the floor."

At 31, Davis is starting his 12th season in the NBA and certainly wants to rewrite what has been a disappointing homecoming story.

"When I was younger, a lot of guys on my team used to say, 'Keep playing. You'll look around and you'll be the oldest on the team,' " he said. "I never thought it would be this fast. I was always the youngest guy on the team.

"Now I have the most years. Now I am the oldest guy on the team. But I'm young."

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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