This week at Fear the Sword, we'll be looking back at some of the miscellaneous players who played for the Cleveland Cavaliers during the years LeBron James played for the Miami Heat. Yesterday, Jack Zink looked back at Manny Harrisand today, Carter Rodriguez gets nostalgic writing about Baron Davis.
Baron Davis arrived to Cleveland during one of the most hopeless times in Cavaliers history.
The team was 10-47 in the first post-LeBron year, and the team had all but given up hope. Davis was finally getting to have fun for the Clippers, with Blake Griffin new in town and dunking over anyone who got in his way. In fact, he didn't particularly want to leave his hometown LA and a Clippers team that finally seemed to be on the rise. That said, there was something to cutting ties with the Clippers.
Though Davis had a shiny new Blake Griffin in LA, he had mostly had his spirit crushed as a Clipper while making far too much money to be shooting 41.6 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from three on 4.3 long-ball attempts per game. He clashed with long-time coach Mike Dunleavy (who had been replaced with Vinny Del Negro that year), was booed by his own team owner, the now-and-then reviled Donald Sterling, and altogether was a disastrous big money signing for LA.
On February 24th, the Cavaliers agreed to absorb Davis' bloated contract for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. The price for absorbing the deal was an unprotected first round pick that eventually won the lottery and became Kyrie Irving.
When Davis arrived in Cleveland, he arrived as a tax. His reputation around the league was not great. He jacked too many threes despite not being a great shooter, he wasn't the elite athlete that yammed on Andrei Kirilenko that he was in Golden State, and his numbers had plummeted since his move to LA.
As a Cavalier, though, Davis was...sort of sublime. The Cavs spirit had long since been crushed after an early promising start, and they were mostly playing out the string. Davis took to the low stakes and played like he was having fun for the first time in two-and-a-half years, because, well, it seemed like he was.
He dished beautiful passes with reckless abandon, bombed away from three (5.8 attempts per game!!!) and actually made his shots, shooting 41.4 percent from distance during his 15 games as a Cavalier. It was Baron's show, and for whatever reason, he invigorated the Cleveland Cavaliers. The team went 6-9 during his 15 games in uniform, and while that doesn't seem like anything special, let me remind you of who he was playing with:
Basically, it was pretty freaking bleak, and Baron was a ray of sunshine on one of the worst seasons I'll ever watch. He finished the season averaging 19.7 points and 8.7 assists per 36 minutes as a Cavalier. He had a shockingly high 19.3 PER, a 45 percent assist percentage, and had a 54.8 true shooting percentage in his 15 games.
That offseason, Baron and his $13 million contract became a victim of the amnesty clause, which, while it was a defensible decision, made me very sad. He joined the Knicks for what became his last season as an NBA player. He battled injuries the entire season before tearing his ACL in the first round of the East playoffs against the Miami Heat.
He hasn't been in the league since, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been busy. Baron has always been a renaissance man. He's produced films about gang violence in LA, starred in television shows and is currently making noise about an NBA comeback.
A comeback is not particularly likely for the former star, as he's been out of the league for over three seasons, though few would argue that it wouldn't be fun to have him in the league again. With a budding film career and an always-interesting demeanor, it's certainly likely we'll continue to hear from the former star.
Davis, to a much lesser degree, had a similar path to becoming a Cavalier as J.R. Smith. Both were salary dumps by their team, acquired by the Cavaliers as a tax for a much more coveted asset. And both, as Cavaliers, played beyond what anyone would have expected of them, and I'll always have a soft spot for both found treasures as a result.