Season in Review: BARON DAVIS

Season Overview: Through no fault of their own, Mo Williams and Jamario Moon will have to make a big impression in Tinseltown – next year and beyond – for the Clippers to claim equal value on a trade that netted the Cavaliers both Baron Davis and eventually the No. 1 overall pick in this June’s Draft.

As this past February’s trade deadline approached, countless scenarios unfolded. But no one outside the Cavs front office could have seen the move that brought Davis and an unprotected Lottery pick to Cleveland. In just 15 games, the former Bruin changed the mentality and the direction of the squad.

Davis made his Cavaliers debut on March 4 and his presence was felt immediately – leading the Wine and Gold to a dramatic four-point win at the Garden. Davis would go on to average 18.0 ppg in his first three games with the Cavaliers, but the passing of his grandmother in L.A. and a bout with back spasms temporarily sidelined his springtime stint in Cleveland.

When Davis did rejoin his mates on the hardwood, the results were once again positive. And after coming off the bench in his first two games back, the 12-year veteran got his first start as a Cavalier against the Miami Heat – once again leading the Wine and Gold to the dramatic win.

Davis – who had battled Coach Byron Scott earlier in their careers in New Orleans – acted as Scott’s coach on the floor and completely changed the mindset of Cleveland’s young squad. With Davis at the helm, the Cavaliers went 6-6 in their final dozen games, including wins in four of their final six.

Davis averaged 13.9 points and 6.1 assists in his season-ending stretch with the Cavaliers, but those numbers don’t illuminate his influence on the team – especially the improvement of young bigs, J.J. Hickson, Samardo Samuels and Ryan Hollins.

Highlight: Baron Davis wasted no time making an impression on his new teammates and old coach – leading Cleveland to a thrilling 119-115 win over the Knicks in the World’s Most Famous Arena.

The Cavaliers had already topped New York twice in 2010-11, but days earlier Mike D’Antoni’s club made a blockbuster deal of their own – acquiring Carmelo Anthony from the Nuggets. And in light of the Knicks’ struggles with Cleveland, Anthony told the New York media that they wanted the Cavaliers on that Friday night.

But New York didn’t have any more answers on that Friday than they did in two previous meetings. Baron came off the bench in that March 4 meeting – netting 18 points and five assists in 26 minutes of action. Davis went 4-for-7 from long-distance in the win – but no trey was bigger than the bomb with 10.9 seconds remaining that put the win on ice.

After Davis canned that huge three-pointer, he pointed demonstratively at Coach Scott, who pumped his fists in a rare display of emotion for the Cavs’ first-year coach. That moment signaled not just a big win, but the rebirth of a previously fractured relationship.

Lowlight: Baron Davis was better than advertised, and it seemed that only a lingering knee injury and back spasms could slow him down once he arrived in Cleveland.

But three games into his tenure with the Cavs, Davis got the devastating news that his grandmother, Madea, had passed away in L.A.

It was well-documented that Davis chose uniform No. 85 in honor of his grandparents – who raised him in Los Angeles and whose house was on 85th Street. Davis returned to Southern California to be with his family and rejoined the Cavs on the West Coast. But after playing just one game (in Portland), Davis was sidelined for three more games due to a bad back.

Odds and Ends: It doesn’t take long to realize that Baron Davis marches to the beat of a different drum, best exemplified in this 2008 YouTube video featuring Davis and Steve Nash:

By the Numbers: 101, 10.3 … points per game that the Cavaliers averaged in Baron Davis’ nine starts and points per game that the Cavaliers improved in scoring (101.4 vs. 91.1) from March to April

Looking Forward: There isn’t much Baron Davis hasn’t accomplished on an individual level over the course of his dozen-year career. But the words “resurrection” and “rebirth” surfaced when the two-time All-Star came to Cleveland.

Some pundits thought Davis would arrive with a bad attitude and serve as a mere placeholder with the Cavaliers. Instead, he became an instant leader and his numbers – along with the team’s fortunes – improved despite the absence of starters Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao.

With a summer to get healthy, a full Training Camp to work with his new teammates and coaches, Davis figures to be one of the squad’s centerpieces when the 2011-12 season tips off.

Quotable: Davis on the cynics predicting he’d be eager to leave Cleveland …

“I’m one to not listen to a lot of criticism or what skeptics say. I’m just trying to find my own way around the town and I’ve found some cool places, some cool hangout places and I think (Cleveland) is a very unique place – you just have to spend some time here to understand it. And a lot of people don’t spend the time, so it’s all a perception. As far as I’m concerned, there’s a lot of great restaurants and a lot of great places and areas to hang out. I love it here.”