Baron Davis is not in bad shape, or out of shape, and he's not fat. He's a beast of a player and he's strong and quick. The thing is, he plays in the NBA. And he's not getting any younger. And he's supposed to be a very high level player, if not at elite status then just short of it. So the standard of what "in shape" means for Baron Davis is extremely high.
There are some other challenges. Davis was confused and lost some motivation when FElton signed with the 76ers. He thought that he and FElton would be able to figure out their game together, and then the guy he was looking forward to playing with, even in Dunleavy's system, was gone. So he didn't do much to get ready in the summer of 08, and then, as these things go, he hurt his back in the preseason and was banged up, and he didn't have the sufficient reserve of conditioning to make a strong recovery. He played badly all season, and realized at some point that his own lack of effort and preparation was problem, that it wasn't all just Dunleavy's control issues.
So last summer Baron Davis worked his ass off. He had to get his career back, to show that he could be a meaningful player in the league. At this time last year we were excited about the kind of shape that BD was in. In the Dunleavy era the Clippers did very well a number of times with the summer commitment of key players, starting with FElton's transformation before his MVP-caliber season. Kaman made a similar leap when he turned into 2.0, and then he did it again last summer, coming off his 0809 foot injury.
The next step in the challenge falls under the category of playing for the Clippers. Griffin's injury and tenuous status, Gordon's injury, the usual strange days of Clipperdom were in full flower last season, and things only got worse after Dunleavy was gone, along with Camby. Last year's team was a disspiriting squad for players and fans alike. BDavis came out of the season, one assumes, frustrated, glad that it was over, and hoping for better days.
For whatever reason, he didn't repeat the effort that he made in the summer of 09. It wasn't that he got completely out of shape, but he didn't have the same drive and focus as the year before. Last summer he made a lot of progress in his program and conditioning, going to a new place, using new techniques, pushing in all sorts of ways. This year he did a number of the same things, going to Vegas, etc., but he obviously took his foot off the gas. He came back in August and dialed in, but you can almost hear him saying, "I started too late." He wasn't going to get to the same place he did last year.
The Clippers, led by gym rat Blake Griffin, who wants to play so badly that steam is coming out of his ears, have changed their ways, along with the rest of the league, and they're steadily evolving into a very well-conditioned group. Ramona S. had an article last week hitting this note, that the team in general is coming in well-prepared, able to go hard in training camp and the preseason. Part of the benefit of good off-season preparation, ideally, would be cutting down on small injuries, avoiding hamstring issues and the like. And those types of minor injuries are easier to recover from if you're in great shape.
The other important note that we saw was Rasual Butler crowing on twitter about passing his fitness test, sailing through it. Butler is going to be fighting for a starting spot and for minutes and he was only signed belatedly, so he's in no position to coast.
As was pointed out in the comments on the news link on this issue, it's refreshing and suggests a change in the Clipper culture that Davis was immediately called out, and that this is the news break on the day before training camp. One has to assume that Davis, unlike Butler, did not pass his fitness test. Others like SP will have a better take on all this, and just what the fitness test is (I think we had that news before at some point, but it might have changed under VDN).
Beyond that, however, my own guess is that BD isn't very far away. He did start working at some point in August, and he has been working hard through September. He should get up to speed pretty quickly, and he'll be cruising along in good form in three weeks or so, towards the end of October, if he can avoid getting banged up.
The downside, of course, is that there's a significant missed opportunity when you play on a lottery team and thus have a long summer. We've seen the effects of guys who work hard in June and July, and it's a big difference. Guys like Lakers Bynum, Kobe, and Gasol are recovering and resting after playing through June, but they have the advantage from playing on established elite teams.
So let's not get too worried. BDavis is in pretty good shape. He's being held accountable, and that's good. He'll get there. As others have said, if this turns out the be the worst of the Clippers problems, they're in pretty good shape themselves.