Monday, December 19, 2011
Knicks officially sign Baron Davis
By Ian Begley
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- New York Knicks point guard Baron Davis says he's "always wanted" to play in Madison Square Garden.
He'll get his opportunity after signing a free-agent contract with the Knicks on Monday morning.
But it's unclear when Davis will be able to hit the Garden floor.
Davis has a herniated disk in his back that he said on Monday could sideline him for 8-10 weeks.
But a source close to Davis told ESPNNewYork.com that 8-10 weeks is a conservative estimate and, if his rehabilitation goes well, he could return in 4-6 weeks "if not sooner."
Said Davis: "For me, it's taking it one day at a time and ... getting as close as I possibly can to practicing to practicing as soon as I possibly can."
Davis joined the Knicks after the Cleveland Cavaliers waived him last week and designated him as their amnesty player so his salary wouldn't count against their cap figure. The Knicks were looking to fortify their backcourt, where they are slated to start third-year Toney Douglas and second-year player Landry Fields.
Davis' one-year deal with the Knicks is at the veteran's minimum of $1.4 million, according to multiple reports.
"Risk-reward is good on this one," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said.
Davis played in 58 games last season, averaging 13.1 points and 6.7 assists for the Clippers and Cavaliers. The two-time All-Star has averaged 16.5 points and 7.3 assists since being drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the No. 3 overall pick in the 1999 draft. Davis last played a full season in 2007-08 with the Golden State Warriors.
The Knicks chased Davis aggressively despite his back injury, desperate to upgrade their backcourt to support a frontcourt duo of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire that was recently boosted with the arrival of Tyson Chandler to be the Knicks' defensive anchor.
"The first order of business is to get him healthy and make sure that when he is able to play, he's ready to go," D'Antoni said. "If we get to that point, which, hopefully we will, we've got one of the better point guards in the league. He just adds another weapon to an already pretty good group."
The team has penciled in Douglas as its starting point guard and Mike Bibby as a backup. But with Douglas lacking experience and Bibby coming off of a subpar playoff run with the Miami Heat, the Knicks have been interested in bringing in Davis as another option at point guard.
D'Antoni said on Monday that it was too soon to say where Davis fits in the backcourt. But the coach hinted that, if healthy, Davis will start.
"We'll give him a chance to get well and if he does, we've definitely found a gem," D'Antoni said.
Chandler, the Knicks' first big name free-agent acquisition of this season's truncated signing period, noted that Davis will need to transform into a pass-first point guard to be successful with the Knicks.
"He's not going to be needed to score as much as he's done his entire career," said Chandler, who has known Davis, a fellow California native, for more than 10 years. "At the end of the day, we're going to (give the ball to) Amare and Carmelo. With him here, we just need him to be able to get us in the offense, play defense and make the right basketball plays. He has a great basketball IQ."
The Los Angeles Lakers and Heat also expressed strong interest in signing Davis, who was waived Wednesday night by the Cavs.
Davis ultimately chose New York because of its front line of Stoudemire, Chandler and Anthony.
"They all complement each other well. For me, it'll be great to just get out on the floor and play with people of that talent level," he said.
Teams with salary-cap space had the right to bid on Davis in the 48 hours before he cleared waivers but elected not to, presumably because of the back injury. The waiver auction for teams with cap space is the mechanism that allowed the Los Angeles Clippers to put in a winning blind bid of a little more than $2 million for Chauncey Billups after Billups was released by the Knicks via amnesty.
Sources say Davis, 32, always intended to make a decision well before he's physically able to play so he can familiarize himself with the team's playbook and personnel and settle into his new home.
Roughly $27 million of the nearly $30 million left on Davis' contract is guaranteed. The Cavs still have to pay Davis that money even after sending him away, but the new amnesty clause -- unlike the 2005 version -- give teams salary cap relief as well as tax relief on a player released via amnesty.
Ian Begley is a frequent contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from ESPN.com's Marc Stein, ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin, ESPNNewYork.com's Christopher Hunt and The Associated Press was used in this report.