A wiser Baron returns with more in mind

Upon returning to Don Nelson University for another year of Basketball, the Frenetic Way, Baron Davis’ essay “What I did on my summer vacation” was compiled through visiting many destinations — after all, he is the John Lennon of the Warriors — and chatting with several big names.

What did he learn? How to be a better leader.

Not that he was all that bad to begin with — still burned deep into every Warriors fan’s memory is the point guard’s inspired play that delivered a monumental playoff upset, not to mention a posterizing dunk for the ages.

But when you are looking to take an All-Star-quality game to a higher level, you seek out sage advice. So when he bumped into NBA legend Jerry West and reigning two-time MVP Steve Nash of Phoenix during his summer excursions, Davis was a sponge and absorbed the information. From the former, he learned about everlasting passion, not to mention improving his pivoting. From the latter, he learned about lifting up the psyche of his teammates.

“I had a chance to play with [Nash in a charity game] in China and we became good friends over the trip,” said Davis, who, along with the rest of the Warriors, opened training camp Tuesday in Hawaii. “Just to have a conversation with him and kind of pick his brain about how he gets his guys going and everything he does as a leader.”

So maybe that is why, with the rest of the Bay Area ready to advance the Warriors directly to the second round of the playoffs, Davis is a little more cautious and respectful of the process.

“I think we’re still underdogs, so to speak,” said Davis, who also says it is important for the Warriors to think about winning an NBA championship. “We had an incredible run. We’re faced with a new challenge because we have a totally new team, younger guys, and we have to jell. I think this training camp will give us a good opportunity, too, for our core group to really mesh our game and get into coach’s system and try to flourish.”

And in order to flourish, the ninth-year pro will need to be at the top of his game. While Davis said Monday his contract is not an issue and he will play out the final two years, he says he is in the best shape of his career since college. Nelson is trying to keep the point guard’s minutes down to a level that won’t wear Davis down. Since playing all 82 games in each of his first three NBA seasons, the 6-foot-3 Davis has averaged just 56 games in the last five seasons due to a variety of injuries.

So with the NBA’s Most Improved Player in Monta Ellis a year wiser and dependable veteran Troy Hudson added as point guard insurance, there will be plenty of chances for Davis to log fewer minutes.

“Last year, I had to play so much because there was really nobody to back me up and nobody to play [shooting guard] once Jason Richardson got hurt, so [Nelson] couldn’t really rely on a lot of guys,” Davis said. “This year, we have so many guys to rely on that the pressure’s not on me to play 40, 45 minutes.”

WARRIORS ADD MONCRIEF: Sidney Moncrief, a former Milwaukee Bucks star when he played for Nelson, has been added to the Warriors’ staff as a shooting coach. Moncrief, 50, shot 50.2 percent from the field and 83.1 percent from the free-throw line and averaged 15.6 points per game in his 11-year career.

sdrumwright@examiner.com

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