Clippers step it up
In a move that shakes the landscape of an already deep Western Conference, the Clippers reached agreement on a contract with All-Star point guard Baron Davis on Tuesday, according to Davis’ agent.
The deal is expected to be signed for five years and $65 million once the NBA’s moratorium period ends next week.
“From a basketball standpoint, it’s always been about winning for Baron,” said Todd Ramasar, Davis’ agent. “This presented a good opportunity to do that, to pair him with Chris Kaman and Elton Brand expected back.”
And Brand, indeed, is back.
The All-Star power forward who opted out of his contract a day earlier for free agency is expected to reach an agreement with the Clippers on a new multiyear deal, possibly as soon as today.
In Davis, 29, the Clippers get what they had earmarked entering the off-season and sorely missed last year: a proven and electric point guard, capable of both scoring and table setting.
Davis has battled past injuries, but played in all 82 games last season for the Golden State Warriors, averaging 21.8 points and 7.6 assists. In his nine-year career, Davis has averaged 17.1 points and 7.2 assists. He was the main catalyst in the eighth-seeded Warriors’ upset of the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the 2007 playoffs.
That the Los Angeles native and UCLA product would come to the Clippers, however, came in a sweeping and stunning fashion.
Davis, a two-time All-Star, left a guaranteed $17.8 million to walk away from the final season of his contract with the Warriors and become a free agent. Only 11 players in the NBA are expected to draw a higher paycheck next season.
A tipping point for Davis may have come late last season when Warriors Coach Don Nelson benched him for the second half of a pivotal game.
When asked if he had heard talk around the NBA that a deal had possibly been in place before the start of free agency, Ramasar said that Davis opting out of his contract had always remained a distinct possibility.
Ramasar added that the Warriors had not attempted to negotiate with Davis before or after he opted out of his contract.
“Baron would have liked to remain a Warrior as short as [Monday] and even [Tuesday],” Ramasar said. “There was no offer, no extension.”
Enter the Clippers, who quickly scooped up the opportunity to land Davis.
Once free agency hit late Monday night, Coach Mike Dunleavy was in New York to court the Sacramento Kings’ Beno Udrih, with the Toronto Raptors’ Jose Calderon as a backup option. Both decided to return to their teams Tuesday. But as they were doing so, Davis became a primary target.
Ramasar said that Dunleavy, who was flying back from New York on Tuesday evening, called him early Tuesday to show the Clippers’ interest. By afternoon, an agreement had been struck.
“[Tuesday] morning is when talks were really initiated,” Ramasar said. “I talked with Coach Dunleavy earlier [Tuesday]. He was meeting with Udrih and we had a conversation and he just expressed interest in Baron and that was a position they needed to address. With Baron being a free agent and a native from L.A., it made sense for them.”
The impending signing could mean the end of forward Corey Maggette’s long tenure with the Clippers. Maggette, last season’s leading scorer, also opted out of his contract on Monday, choosing to test free agency. He has drawn interest from several teams, including the Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic.
The Davis move radically reshapes a team that went 23-59 last season, battling injuries throughout the season.
The Clippers’ new probable starting lineup features All-Stars in Davis and Brand and two players on the upswing in Kaman and small forward Al Thornton.
Along with entering the league the same year and playing in the same McDonald’s All-American game, Davis and Brand have other shared interests.
As in Hollywood.
Brand produced the 2007 film “Rescue Dawn.” Davis was unavailable for comment Tuesday, screening his film “Made in America,” for the San Francisco Film Society.
As expected, the Clippers did not extend a qualifying offer of $5.8 million to point guard Shaun Livingston, making him an unrestricted free agent.
The Clippers will probably try to negotiate with Livingston and bring him back at a reduced price.
“The Clippers have expressed an interest in re-signing him,” said Henry Thomas, Livingston’s agent.
Thomas added that he expected interest around the league in Livingston even though he is still healing from a serious knee injury suffered in 2007. He declined to specify what teams had contacted him.
The Clippers will announce the signing of first-round draft pick Eric Gordon at a news conference at Staples Center today.
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