Here’s the story I just filed advancing the Clippers season opener Wednesday night.
By Ramona Shelburne
PLAYA VISTA — Hold the parade and the “Welcome Home” dinners for a little while.
Baron Davis is back in his hometown, a newly-minted 65 million-dollar-man, and yes, he will most likely play in Wednesday night’s season opener against the Lakers after missing nearly three weeks with a finger injury.
But he wants all the hoopla put on ice for a while.
“I want to establish myself and set my mark. I just want to get to the season and see what I got to offer, then let the city get a glimpse of what we have in store in the years to come,” the former Crossroads High and UCLA star said Tuesday after going through a complete practice for the first time in nearly three weeks.
“I ain’t throwing any parties or welcome home dinners. There’s a certain way to do this. I want to do the work first before I take credit for anything. I haven’t done anything yet but just come to the Clippers.”
With himself and forwards Tim Thomas and Marcus missing virtually all of training camp with an assortment of injuries, Davis knows that might take a little while.
A murderous early season schedule doesn’t make it any easier. The Clippers play 12 of their first 15 games against teams that made the playoffs last season.
“The most important thing is for us just to be patient with each other as a team, knowing that we’re going to hit some bumps and lumps early because we lost the preseason,” Davis said.
“Really everybody is new because no one has played with each other before. So it’s going to take some time. We can develop an attitude and an identity early and once we establish that it’s just about building on it.”
That said, Davis’ early season goals are modest. He’s hoping for at least five games over .500 by the All-Star break, keeping the team in playoff contention but also allowing room for growing pains.
In keeping with that theme, Davis said he’s thinking of leaving his beard long, at least in the beginning of the season.
The beard, which made him something of a cult figure up in the Bay Area when he led the Golden State Warriors to their shocking first round upset of the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks two seasons ago, helps to remind Davis that success in the NBA is a “struggle” and a “grind.”
“I was going to switch up my look and have a clean cut when I came to L.A., but I might keep it for opening night,” he said. “It’s like my little protective layer, letting me know that I’m still in the struggle. I’ve been hurt, I’ve been in the grind. So I might leave it for opening might. Once we get rolling, maybe I’ll cut it off.”
Injury updates: Thomas (groin) is also probable for Wednesday night’s game. He was able to complete the entire practice Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s there. I’m moving and doing pretty much everything I want to do on the court,” Thomas said. “The hardest part is just wearing the protective pieces the staff has given me to protect it. I kind threw that away and just went with it today. It’s just mind over matter right now. Its a sleeve that keeps it warm or whatever, but it’s just uncomfortable.”
Marcus Camby (bruised heel) is doubtful. He has yet to return to practice, doing mostly running and shooting on a side court.
“I think Baron and Tim will play, but I’m still very doubtful on Marcus,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. “He’s out until he can show that he’s ready to go. He’s doing a lot of underwater treadmill stuff, trying to keep conditioning that way.”
Davis will play with his left, non-shooting ring finger taped to his middle finger, and splinted with a hard plastic sheath.