It was too difficult to choose just one disappointment from the Clippers, so we've chosen three. In this edition, Baron Davis.
The theme for SB Nation's themed posts this week is Disappointment Day, with bloggers for each team writing about their franchise's biggest disappointment. There aren't a lot of areas where historically the Los Angeles Clippers have excelled, but they've really been a model franchise in generating disappointment for their fans.
We discussed some potential disappointments Tuesday, which led to a poll of the Citizenry Wednesday, and from the many potential disappointments across franchise history, three in particular stand out. In the poll, with over 400 votes cast, a few percentage points separate the top three vote getters, with each of them receiving more than three times as many votes as the next closest vote getter.
And fine choices they are also: Baron Davis, Andre Miller and Michael Olowokandi were all massive disappointments in their Clipper careers. These all such good choices, I'm having trouble deciding between them. So let's talk about all three.
We've already been over Andre Miller. Next up is Baron Davis.
Of the three, this is the only one that occurred in the blog era, so we don't have to guess at the disappointment -- you can relive it in the archives if you really want to. When Davis agreed to sign with the Clippers on July 1 2008, it felt like the most important day in the history of the franchise. It's hard to remember at this point as his effectiveness has steadily diminished, but Davis was coming off back-to-back seasons in which he'd been, simply put, one of the highest impact players in the entire league. In 2007 he led the Warriors to a first round playoff victory over the top seeded Dallas Mavericks, and he was every bit as good the following season as well. The Clippers had never signed a free agent with as much visibility -- not even close. The fact that Davis had apparently conspired with the Clippers own superstar free agent Elton Brand to team up in L.A. made it all the more exciting -- stars actually wanted to play here, for once the Clippers were getting the breaks.
It didn't take long for the disappointment to kick in. Within days, as Brand's own verbal agreement became conspicuous by its absence, the rumors began to swirl that Elton would be defecting elsewhere, and just one week after Davis announced he would be a Clipper, Brand signed with Philadelphia.
In fact, it's difficult to disentangle the disappointment associated with Baron from the disappointment at the manner of Brand's departure. Easily among the most popular and most talented Clippers of all time, Brand betrayed the Clipper faithful when he headed east. And though Davis has rarely spoken of it, Brand's reversal clearly impacted him as well. When he agreed to sign in L.A. (unexpectedly opting out of more money from the Warriors that season) it was with the understanding that he and Brand would team up for a formidable inside-outside combination. Within days that dream was shattered and Davis was signing on to a team that had lost it's best player.
Davis as a player has always fed on emotion -- his 2007 playoff performances are so memorable because the games were so important and he was so insanely energized. That spark was entirely missing from his first season in L.A. and not surprisingly it was the worst season of his career to that point. I'll admit that it isn't entirely consistent, but where I tend to blame Andre Miller for his terrible attitude as a Clipper, I'm more understanding of Baron's situation. He always said all the right things, and I even believe that he tried. But he lacked true enthusiasm given what happened with Brand, and he's not the kind of player that can thrive without it.
Baron played another season and a half with the Clippers, and he was much, much better during that time than he was in his first season. But he was never as good as he'd been with the Warriors and Hornets, and he was never really worth his massive contract (5 years, $65M). This being the Clippers, circumstances continued to conspire against him: during his second season Blake Griffin was lost for the year in pre-season, during his third season he was traded, nagging injuries plagued him throughout. He was good, sometimes very good, in his final year and a half in L.A. His connection with Griffin during Blake's delayed rookie season was arguably better and more spectacular than Chris Paul's, and the Davis-to-Griffin highlights remain the gold standard for Lob City, even though they occurred before that name existed. But Baron on the Clippers was ill-fated from the beginning, and was seemingly not meant to be.
What makes this such an amazing story of disappointment is that there are myriad facets to the disappointment, some completely out of Baron Davis' control, occurring before, during and after his actual time wearing the uniform. Just as l'affaire Brand is associated with Davis even before he was officially a Clipper, there was one more huge disappointment in store well after Davis had left L.A. The cost to the Clippers of ridding themselves of Davis' contract was a lottery pick, sent to Cleveland with Davis for Mo Williams. Four months after the trade, that unprotected lottery pick turned into the first overall pick in the draft, which turned into 2012 Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving.
Brand's departure, Griffin's injury, the lost first overall pick, uninspired play: it wasn't all his fault (not even most of it, really) but taken together it was a perfect storm of disappointment during Baron Davis' Clipper career.