Real Baron Davis stands up

Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling is a real estate mogul first and foremost. So he understands things like spending money to make money and investing in the future.

It's just that when he opened his pocketbook two years ago to invest $65 million in point guard Baron Davis, he was expecting immediate returns.

That clearly didn't happen in Davis' first season with the club.

Like most real estate in this country over the past year and a half, Davis became a bit of a toxic asset -- falling in value and next to impossible to unload.

But in the past few weeks, things have taken a definite turn for the better.

A week and a half ago, Davis drained his first buzzer-beater as a Clipper to upset the Boston Celtics.

On Wednesday night, he was even better, dominating the Lakers with 25 points and 10 assists in the Clippers' 102-91 win in front of a stunned crowd at Staples Center.

It's hard to say who was more stunned: the Lakers' fans who bought tickets to the Clippers' home game expecting an easy win over their red-headed stepchild, or the tough-luck Clippers fans who've grown accustomed to their team blowing leads and disappointing them in new and creative ways.

But it's easy to say who was most impressed: Sterling.

Moments after the win, he went down to the Clippers' locker room to congratulate the team. He sought out Davis personally.

"Congratulations," Sterling told Davis, while extending his hand. "Congratulations. The real guy was there tonight. That was fabulous. Great game."

Davis could only smile and say, "Thank you, sir. Thank you."

He seemed more relieved than satisfied.

"Ten games from now, we'll be able to tell [what Wednesday's game] means," Davis said. "To see where we are.

"This game was big for us and one that I know a lot of people didn't think we had a chance of winning. ... But we still have a lot of improvement to do. I think our best is yet to come. We need to take a victory like this and build on it."

After nine straight losses to the Lakers, including an embarrassing
117-79 blowout in the Clippers' home opener last season and a humbling 99-92 loss this season after the Lakers accepted their championship rings in a pregame ceremony, Davis seemed grounded about the importance of Wednesday's win.

This win doesn't give the Clippers bragging rights in L.A. This win just reminds everyone in town that the Clippers still are playing NBA games on nights the Lakers are off.

"Everybody knows this is a Laker town," Clippers center Chris Kaman said. "That's why we have to a better job of turning things around. This win helps us go in the right direction."

It's what Davis and the Clippers do next that's really going to matter.

"Hey," Davis said. "My granny is a Laker fan. I grew up a Laker fan.

"But that's one of the reasons why I wanted to come here to play for the Clippers, because I felt that it was an opportunity to do the same thing I did in Charlotte, New Orleans and Golden State, and that's just to bring some life and energy and passion to an organization that, you know, could use it.

"I want the Clippers to be one of the elite teams in the league and a team that everybody in the league wants to play for because we have fun and we play with a little heart."

That's the guy Sterling thought he was getting two summers ago.

That's definitely the guy he got Wednesday night.

Ramona Shelburne is a writer and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.