In his first public statement on his unexpected foray into free agency, Baron Davis acknowledged Tuesday that he is considering a free-agent move to his hometown Los Angeles Clippers but insisted that his preference remains staying with the Golden State Warriors.
Communicating with ESPN.com's J.A. Adande via e-mail, Davis wrote: "Clipps r possible. G State is where I wanna b."
Davis surprised the Warriors on Monday by forfeiting next season's $17.8 million salary for the right to become an unrestricted free agent, after numerous indications from the Davis camp that he was not likely to opt out.
Elton Brand likewise opted out of next season's $16.4 million salary with the Clippers on Monday to join Davis as an unrestricted free agent, creating a scenario in which L.A. could have in excess of $25 million for the 2008-09 campaign to split between the two of them, so long as the Clippers are willing to renounce their rights to unrestricted free agent Corey Maggette and able to convince Brand to take a slight pay cut.
Maggette also opted out of his contract Monday after averaging 22.1 points per game this past season.
But Davis' statement Tuesday suggests that he is hoping his decision to opt out will convince the Warriors to return to the negotiating table after making little progress with Golden State in pursuit of a contract extension before NBA free agency commenced at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
Davis, though, isn't the only point guard on the Clippers' wish list. Sources said Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy was in the New York area over the weekend and stayed over Monday to meet with Beno Udrih of the Sacramento Kings at the first allowable minute, with Udrih coming off a strong first season with the Kings and expected to cost roughly half what Davis would.
NBA teams are permitted to commence negotiations and strike verbal agreements with free agents, with actual signings and trades on hold until a leaguewide moratorium is lifted July 9.
Brand and agent David Falk insisted that their decision to forfeit next season's $16.4 million salary and allow Brand to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career was designed to give the Clippers more payroll flexibility to strengthen the team around the face of its franchise.
"He watched what happened when a few stars get together and agree to have a communal effort," Falk said. "He said, 'That's what I'd like to accomplish in my career.' "
Signing Davis away from the Warriors would certainly supply the Clippers with elite anchors in the backcourt as well as the front line, provided that Davis continues to stay healthy after playing all 82 games this past season and if Brand continues to recover from an Achilles tear that limited him to just eight games in 2007-08.
Davis, 29, was the key figure on a Golden State team that halted a 12-season playoff drought in 2006-07 and produced a historic first-round upset of the 67-win Dallas Mavericks in the 2007 playoffs. He then averaged 21.8 points, 7.6 assists and 4.7 rebounds playing every game this past season, but the Warriors just missed out on a second consecutive playoff berth despite a win total (48) exceeded by only three teams in the Eastern Conference.
Davis has repeatedly professed his desire to establish long-term roots in Oakland and responded angrily last Wednesday to suggestions that he wanted to be traded, telling ESPN.com: "I know what's in my heart and the people in the Bay Area know what's in my heart."
But it's believed that Davis is not only frustrated by his inability to reach a long-term agreement with the Warriors but also somewhat unsettled by the fact that Golden State still must re-sign young cornerstones Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins and has coach Don Nelson under contract for only one more season.
"[Opting out] was a difficult decision, to say the least," Ramasar said. "The past couple years, he's had a lot of success with the Warriors, and I think they've had a lot of success with him.
"But he had gotten to the point that we were at a crossroads and it was something we had to address. ... With no extension or deal in place ... [opting out] was a bit unexpected but something that I advised Baron to do."
The Clippers appear to be the only realistic free-agent destination for Davis if his opt-out gamble doesn't lead to a new round of contract negotiations with the Warriors or if he can't convince Golden State to participate in a sign-and-trade. Memphis and Philadelphia are the only other teams with cap space to offer, and neither is expected to pursue Davis.
The Warriors, meanwhile, weren't commenting Monday night, so it was not immediately known whether they plan to return to the negotiating table or if they're willing to let Davis go -- despite Golden State's success since pairing Davis with the freewheeling Nelson -- and press ahead with their growing youth movement and the cap space that would be created by Davis' departure.
Golden State let a $9.9 million trade exception -- created by the 2007 draft-day deal that sent Jason Richardson to Charlotte -- expire Monday in part to ensure that it would retain the flexibility beneath the luxury-tax line to match any offers to restricted free agents Ellis and Biedrins. The Warriors also have stockpiled a promising group of youngsters behind those two 22-year-olds: Brandan Wright, Marco Belinelli and last week's first-round pick, Anthony Randolph of LSU.