Liotta: Ability to win ballgames sets Warriors’ Davis apart

I didn’t know this about myself until the other night, but I believe Baron Davis stands shoulder to shoulder with the most dangerous players in the game of basketball.

He’s as good as any of ’em because he can — and does — score baskets that winbasketball games.

Give Davis the ball with any game on the line, and take your chances. He’ll come through as often as just about any player playing the game today.

There is no greater compliment I can offer, because I consider the ability to win professional basketball games very, very special. It’s the single, defining quality that sets apart the game’s greatest players from all those 20-point scorers on losing teams.

How many forgettable players have danced through the years racking up thousands of points that didn’t mean a thing? They hit 12-foot jumpers six minutes into a game. They score 25 points against the weakest teams in the NBA — sometimes while the team around that player loses the basketball game.

Playing the game at the highest level is one thing; winning games at the highest level is another.

Warriors fans may have known this for a while, but I didn’t know I knew it until Wednesday night.

Sure, I’ve known Davis is talented, but I’ve accused him of playing hard only when he wants to. And I’m still not sure I’m over the fact that he was such a negative influence when Mike Montgomery coached the Warriors.

But on Wednesday night, I realized I had another opinion about Davis.

As soon as he got the ball in the closing seconds of the Warriors’ 119-117 victory over the Celtics, I knew he was going to win that game. His go-ahead 20-footer simply reaffirmed that fact.

And while the Oracle Coliseum Arena crowd went crazy, enjoying the kind of sports moments that a fan is an outsider to when watching on a big-screen, high-definition television screen, I was left to marvel at the respect I have for what Davis can do on a basketball court.

Random thoughts

» I’m stuck on some spring training math. How do you take a team that won 71 games a year ago, finishing 19 games out with Barry Bonds in the lineup, take Bonds out of that lineup and expect that team to be more competitive? It doesn’t add up, no matter how confident Bengie Molina and Aaron Rowand say they are. It doesn’t.

» The latest example of how harsh the game of professional football can be? The 49ers cutting linebacker Derek Smith. No ceremony. No handshake. No applause. Simply done. The fact that the move makes perfect sense does not make it easier to swallow how unceremoniously a one-time key player’s tenure with his team can come to an end.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner.

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