He’s a former All-NBA selection. He’s a two-time NBA All-Star, and the No. 3 overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft. But on Friday, March 4, local hoops fans got to see Baron Davis in action at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center when he made his debut for the Delaware 87ers — the first step in attempting his NBA comeback.
“It felt good. I would say I definitely gotta get into a rhythm,” said Davis after the game. “It’s been a long process. I know a lot of people don’t know how long it’s been, but it’s just been a long process just getting to this point, I’m just excited about tonight, being able to play and feeling the way I do, after I do after tonight’s game, and knowing that I got so much more for improvement.”
After signing with the Philadelphia 76ers affiliate on March 2, the 36-year-old point guard put up 14 points in his debut performance, though the 87ers fell to the Iowa Energy, 114-106.
“The first half was a lot of adrenaline, and I think, as a team, we were playing well,” Davis said. “Second half, we kind of got stagnant and started playing out-of-character. I thought we played a little bit too fast and started getting a lot of turnovers; then they got in rhythm.
“I think that, as we continue to practice and play, my mind will get sharper, my court awareness will get sharper, my vision — just my overall rhythm. I was flat on a lot of my shots, but I was out there. I was out there and I was able to play.”
Despite the loss, the excitement from the organization surrounding the signing was undeniable.
“Baron still has much to contribute to the game, and we are excited to play a role as he transitions through the next phase of his successful career,” said Brandon D. Williams, Philadelphia 76ers chief of staff and Delaware 87ers general manager. “Our organizational efforts continue to center on finding, developing and providing opportunity to talented professionals.”
Davis last saw NBA action in the 2011-2012 season, playing for the New York Knicks, appearing in 29 games and averaging 6.1 points and 4.7 assists during an average 20.5 minutes per game. After a four-year hiatus, however, he’s starting to get back into court shape. In fact, just two nights after his debut, he helped the 87ers to a 109-104 road win over the Energy that snapped the team’s nine-game losing streak.
“As we get better as a team, I think that we’ll all start communicating better, and then guys will really see the place that I’m coming from.” Davis said.
One of the teammates who Davis hopes to have an impact on is point guard Russ Smith — a former second-round draft pick by the 76ers in 2014 and member of the 2013 NCAA National Championship team at Louisville, who is also trying to make his way back into the NBA.
Against Iowa last Friday, Smith posted a team-high 50 points.
“Russ and I — we’ve been talking the last few days. I wanna help him become the point guard that he wants to be,” said Davis. “That’s what I wanna do here. I wanna be able to help Russ. I wanna be able to help a lot of these guys. I can definitely do that. Not such much being caught up in what I’m doing and how I’m feeling, but trying to be unselfish and a good teammate.”
Up next, Davis and the 87ers will head to California to face Bakersfield on Friday, March 11, and Santa Cruz on Sunday, March 13. But they’ll be back at “the Bob” on Friday, March 18, when the Mad Ants come marching into town.
Of course, there’s no telling when or if Davis will get the call back to the big leagues. Until that day comes, however, he’ll be getting ready.
“I’m gonna continue to practice, continue to work. As far as conditioning, I’m not far off, so I just gotta continue to work and just fine tune a couple of the things that I’m doing,” he said. “I just want to see how it plays out. “
For more on the 87ers, or for ticket information, visit www.delaware.dleague.nba.com.