|Davis resurrects career under Nelson and both help Golden State win|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 04 May 2007 13:46|
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -Baron Davis and Don Nelson embraced in a long, celebratory bear hug at courtside - and neither seemed willing to break away.|
The point guard who couldn't lead and the coach who couldn't succeed when it counted were in the final moments of one of the biggest NBA playoff shockers ever.
These two have resurrected their careers together with the Golden State Warriors, and are onto the second round of the playoffs after a monumental upset of the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in six games.
asketball player and a much better person, and a leader at the same time.''
Not long ago, Davis had earned a reputation as a coach killer, a malcontent unable to play through injuries. He feuded with Byron Scott in New Orleans before the Hornets traded Davis to the Warriors in February 2005, and never saw eye to eye with former Golden State coach Mike Montgomery.
Nelson wasn't worried when he took over the team this season and ultimately ended the league's longest playoff drought at 12 years thanks to a lot of hustle and hard work from Davis.
``He got along with Paul Silas, and that's my best friend and my old roommate,'' Nelson said. ``Paul told me I wasn't going to have any problem at all and told me what a great guy he was and that he loved to play. I don't know about all the rest of the stuff. The injuries are very real. When he gets injured and they're serious enough, it really hampers his play.''
Davis scored 20 points on Thursday night after getting hurt in the first quarter, again carrying the Warriors as they won a best-of-seven series for the first time in 31 years. They beat Detroit in the Western Conference semifinals in 1976 - the year after winning their only NBA championship in California.
And Golden State will wait until the conclusion of Saturday night's Game 7 between Houston and Utah to learn who it gets next.
``I finally believed it when I got up this morning and read the paper. It was hard for me to believe that we beat that team, actually,'' Nelson said. ``It took me a night to think about it and by golly, it really did happen. It wasn't a dream.''
It's hard to believe - in spite of the Warriors' popular ``We Believe'' postseason slogan - that last summer Nelson was out of basketball and Davis' health, happiness and team spirit were in question after he sprained his ankle Feb. 11 and played only six games the rest of the way.
Some loyal Warriors fans were already eager to run him out of town.
``I've been counted out all my life, so for me it doesn't bother me at all,'' Davis said. ``I take the good with the bad and the highs with the lows. You've just got to keep pushing and keep living.''
Nellie, meanwhile, was off in Maui enjoying the Hawaiian sunshine before Chris Mullin lured him out of retirement to return to the Warriors and transform them into a legitimate contender they hadn't been since Nelson last took the team to the playoffs in 1994 when Mullin was a player. Mark Cuban parted ways with Nelson in Dallas because the Mavs' owner had lost confidence in the coach's ability to win in the postseason.
Nelson insisted Friday he has no plans to respond to Cuban's criticism or comments.
``Let me just tell you about Mark Cuban, I've been trying to take the high road and that's been very difficult,'' Nelson said. ``But I want to continue to try to take the high road, and I would hope that someday - maybe it takes a lot of years - but someday maybe we could still have a relationship of some kind or a friendship.''
The coach sat outside the team's practice facility Friday smoking a cigar and sipping coffee as his dog, Lucky, scurried around. About 50 people - including Davis - partied with Nelson until the wee hours, then he gave everybody the day off to ``freshen up'' while his coaches prepared scouting reports on the Jazz and Rockets.
Davis' injury troubles and issues with coaches caused many to forget about him, but not now. He has brought the NBA spotlight onto the Bay Area at a time Oakland fans were desperate for something to cheer about considering their baseball team is planning to leave town and the Oakland Raiders are the worst team in the NFL.
Davis is the heart and soul of a team that seemed downtrodden only two months ago, when Nelson publicly acknowledged that the playoffs were a serious stretch of the imagination.
Davis has even brought Hollywood to the Warriors' side for as long as this special run continues. Actress Kate Hudson, a longtime friend and high school classmate, was in the locker room afterward and has been cheering him on from courtside.
``Baron grew up around a very interesting world,'' Hudson said. ``He knew exactly what he wanted to do. He was extremely focused, he worked hard, he never really went out. He was a basketball player. Everybody knew that about him. ... We all watched him go to UCLA and now here he is.''
Davis, who along with teammate Jason Richardson were set to appear on ``Late Night with Conan O'Brien'' on Friday, is clearly happy in his situation after once comparing playing in New Orleans to ``being in prison.''
All that is history now. Davis received too many e-mails to read after Thursday's win and even got a message from former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford Jr. - not to mention a kiss on the head from Mullin, the Warriors' vice president of basketball operations.
``They've grown together as a team, no question,'' Mullin said. ``We're trying to approach it like this is the way it's supposed to be - this is what our goal has always been. We're keeping it in perspective. Enjoy it, but there's still a lot to be done.''
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