Former Charlotte Hornets No. 3 overall pick and two-time NBA All-Star Baron Davis made his debut in the NBA Development League with the Delaware 87ers on Friday night.
The 87ers blew a 17-point second-half lead against the Iowa Energy, falling 114-106 at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, Delaware. Davis finished with eight points, four assists and three steals in his first professional game since suffering a gruesome injury to his right knee in May 2012.
The 36-year-old point guard, who boasts averages of 16.1 points and 7.2 assists per game in his NBA career, showed he can still throw it down with a first-quarter dunk, perhaps with a little less authority than his earlier playing days:
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
.@BaronDavis still got it! 💪🏾 (via @nbadleague) https://t.co/rXBCQog5qS2016-3-5 00:58:53
Although he did not start, Davis played 19 minutes for the Philadelphia 76ers' D-League affiliate. In addition to the dunk, Davis nailed a deep three-pointer, his only make on five attempts from behind the arc in the first half:
Davis scored five points in 12 first-half minutes as the 87ers led, 56-50, at halftime. It was a great start for the Los Angeles native who tore his ACL and MCL and partially tore his patella tendon during the 2012 playoffs with the New York Knicks.
ESPN college basketball analyst Sean Farnham, who played for the UCLA Bruins with Davis, was glad to see his friend back on the court:
Sean Farnham @SeanFarnham
Congrats to @BaronDavis great to see you back on the court... https://t.co/05731iFhsT2016-3-5 01:07:09
Nick Birdsong of Sporting News shared his thoughts on Davis' first-half production.
"He no longer possesses the 'it' factor, athleticism and power that made him 'BD' and a two-time All-Star during a 10-plus-year stint in the NBA, but he possesses enough savvy and showmanship to keep watching," Birdsong wrote.
Davis may disagree. In addition to his two made baskets in the first half, he was distributing well and active on defense, even setting up teammate Sam Thompson with an alley-oop on a no-look pass, via the NBA D-League:
NBA D-League @nbadleague
.@BaronDavis with 5 points, 4 assists and 3 steals halfway through his @Sevens debut: https://t.co/4Ujlas2OGh https://t.co/jjmbs6LLCB2016-3-5 01:05:37
Davis was on the bench for the start of the second half but came back onto the floor with 3:59 left in the third quarter. He eventually hit a three-pointer in the fourth quarter for his final points.
The second half wasn't nearly as good to Davis and the 87ers, who were outscored by 14 points over the final 24 minutes.
Davis picked up his fifth foul in the third quarter, and whoever was running the 87ers' official Twitter account seemed perplexed when head coach Kevin Young took Davis off the court:
Delaware 87ers @Sevens
Baron on the bench with 5 fouls 🤔 He's got 5 points, 4 assists, 3 steals in 15 minutes.2016-3-5 01:46:08
Davis played just four more minutes after that, finishing the night shooting 3-of-11 from the field, including a 2-of-9 mark from three-point range.
It's too early to tell how well his injured knee will respond, but Davis looked good enough to warrant a spot on a D-League roster. He was happy to be back on the floor, taking to Twitter immediately following the game to express his feelings:
Baron Davis @BaronDavis
Felt good getting back on the court... Happy to be playing again... 1st game back. We Will get better. @Sevens2016-3-5 02:28:45
He will have to stand out among his peers if he expects to take the next step back to the NBA, but it's possible. For now, though, it would be wise for Davis to look at each game as a win as long as his knee holds up.
Davis might not have played with the flash and style he displayed in his 20s, but CBS Sports NBA recognized the former Golden State Warrior turned in a respectable performance:
CBS Sports NBA @CBSSportsNBA
Baron Davis with a solid D-League debut https://t.co/fRGe7HpE9R2016-3-5 02:20:06
Former NBA player Steve Smith liked what he saw in Davis' game:
Steve Smith @steve21smith
@BaronDavis Congrats Yoing Fella… I’m loving it. Get down on that block .2016-3-5 03:40:20
When speaking with reporters after the game, Davis seemed glad to get his first outing under his belt, per the 87ers:
Delaware 87ers @Sevens
"I survived" - @BaronDavis with a smile after his first game since 2012. 8 points, 4 assists, 3 steals in 19 min. https://t.co/zZAqW4DUc72016-3-5 02:52:34
Davis also commented on his two-handed dunk, per Dan Gelston of the Associated Press (h/t NBA.com).
"I thought it was LeBron James coming to block it. I didn't want to lay it up," he said. "I thought, while I'm up here, I might as well try."
Even though he fought his way back and has his first game out of the way, Davis said it almost didn't seem real, per the AP.
"I think a lot of it was happening in my brain," Davis said. "I was playing, I was out there, but I wasn't all the way out there."