GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Who doesn't remember former Golden State Warrior Baron Davis' memorable dunk on Andrei Kirilenko in Game 3 of the 2007 semifinals against the Jazz?
Davis smoked Deron Williams off of the pick-and-roll and threw a one-hand jam down right in Kirilenko's grill -- a play that's been watched more than 1,130,000 times on YouTube. And it's one that Davis has highlighted a lot, through photos and newspaper clippings, throughout his Santa Monica penthouse apartment.
That explosiveness is what Davis has missed the most this season, battling back from a herniated disk that nearly ended his career, to recent tightness in his right hamstring that he doesn't think will go away anytime soon. That's especially true with the lack of rest time during the shortened season, and Davis is prepared to play through the injury, for which he's still continuing to receive treatment.
"I think at this point, I've just got to go with whatever injury I have -- whatever nick, scratch, whatever that situation is," he said. "You've just got to go with it at this point."
That may continue to impede with Davis' desire to regain that quick first step and high vertical leap (around 40 inches) that he had in years past. Right now, Davis is "definitely not happy" about his game, even though he still feels confident he can contribute by getting to the basket and creating for his teammates with his passing ability.
"I'm happy where my body is, considering where I started the season, not even thinking that I would be able to play basketball again," Davis said after Monday morning's practice at the Knicks' training facility. "But I definitely know that I can get back to my old self and do the things that I've been capable of doing. I may have lost a lot of athleticism, but I can still pass the ball well and run the team, and that's where my focus is right now."
Davis said he'll hopefully be back to his old self this season, perhaps even in a few weeks.
"I think with the hamstring, that was a setback," he said, "and when you're out there limping, you don't have the burst of energy or you don't really have that pop. But I can get my shot off against anybody, I can get to the hole against anybody. It's just a matter of letting my body heal, letting my hamstring heal. I need that little bit of explosiveness that I'm lacking right now. Once I'm able to do that and get hot myself, get on a nice little hot streak, then I should be alright."
The biggest road block to Davis' path to getting that explosiveness back is his hamstring injury, not his back, to which he aid, "It's doing well." Therefore, Mike Woodson knows he can't play Davis 30 to 35 minutes per game, a notion the point guard supported.
"I would think that's fair," he said. "I'm going to give coach Mike whatever he asks me and I'm going to play as hard as I possibly can for this team in order for us to win. Whether if that's 30 minutes one night or 20 minutes the next night, I think the important thing is that we play well together and we continue to hang our hat on the defensive end and just be able to pull the games out down the stretch."
Two key offensive changes will have to happen for Davis and the Knicks to continue their success. The first is limiting their turnovers. Not only are the Knicks the worst in the league in giveaways per game (16.6), they've been worse in the past week (17.8). Davis had nine turnovers in his first start on March 26 replacing Jeremy Lin, but since then he has reduced his fumbles. Now it's up to his teammates to follow along.
"That's extremely important," Davis said. "Turnovers and rebounds are the most important things in the basketball game, if you ask me. We have to do a better job of not turning the ball over, especially on the road. They already have home-court advantage and you give them extra possessions and opportunities to fastbreak off the turnovers. We definitely want to be more conscious of taking care of the basketball."
The second, mainly due to the team missing up-tempo point guard Jeremy Lin, Amare Stoudemire and their day-to-day injury situation, including a slower-paced Davis, they'll have to adjust to more of a halfcourt style game. That means in addition to Carmelo Anthony getting more touches in the post, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, especially, will have to keep looking to attack to create scoring opportunities and open looks for others.
Tyson Chandler briefly mentioned the adjustment after the Cavaliers game Saturday, which Davis expanded upon after practice on Monday.
"I definitely don't mind a halfcourt style," he said. "I think we're going to have to grind out a lot of games, especially in this month. It probably works better for us to be able to slow the game up and play a possession type game, and then run when we have opportunities. We have such explosive scorers on this team that I think that playing that grind-it-out, halfcourt game could be to our advantage, because at any moment we can push the ball, push the tempo and we're capable of running off three or four threes in a row, and capable of going on 10-0 runs.
"I think the object is to keep the game close, grind it out on the road and when we get one of those runs, be able to close enough to where we have the lead. Then, that six-point lead turns into a 16-point lead and not being down 16, where we have to come back from 16 down to six and try to get back in the game."
Davis said that even when he signed with the Knicks on Dec. 19, starting was never a concern. Fortunately, the added pressure on him to return quickly was relieved with Lin's sudden rise. Davis said that allowed him to work his back into shape gradually and have enough time to get acclimated to the team.
While Davis is now dealing with another slight setback -- his first was a right elbow infection back in late January -- he's ready to give it his all in the last month of the regular season.
"I've got to be ready. There's no other choice, there's no other option," he said. "I have complete confidence in myself and in my game."
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