Steinmetz: Baron made Warriors

Hard as it is to believe, point guard Baron Davis has played his last game for the Warriors.

Davis shocked his front office, his coach and his teammates Monday when he opted out of the final year of his contract worth $17.8 million to become an unrestricted free agent. He went one better Tuesday when ESPN.com reported that he agreed to a five-year, $65 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers.

That the Warriors didn’t think he was going to do that would be an understatement. As recently as two or three days ago, the organization was preparing to move forward with Davis running the team.

Warriors coach Don Nelson said that Davis told him a few days ago he was coming back for 2008-09.

The problem with Davis walking isn’t just that the Warriors will lose their best player, their leader and the player that makes them go. What makes Davis leaving a bigger issue is that virtually ever player on the team’s roster is impacted — and not in a good way.

It might be a cliché, but Davis made his teammates better — particularly Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins, who are restricted free agents this offseason. As tough as it is to say, Ellis and Biedrins are far more ordinary players on a team without Davis.

How can either Ellis or Biedrins take the next step in their development without Davis? It doesn’t seem possible. Davis makes things so much easier for both of them.

Because Davis is a point guard with size, it allowed the wispy Ellis to defend opposing point guards rather than shooting guards. The fact of the matter is Ellis needs to play with a big point guard to be most effective and right now the Warriors don’t have one.

What about Biedrins? How much better did Davis make him? Again, a lot. You take away all Biedrins’ dunks that were spoon-fed to him off a Davis pick-and-roll and all of a sudden Biedrins is a 50 percent shooter from the field, not 63 percent.

Biedrins also goes from a center who might give you 12 points a game to one who’ll get you eight.

Don’t forget about Stephen Jackson. Davis was the one player on the Warriors capable of keeping Jackson in check a little bit.

Jackson had a propensity to try to do too much, even with Davis on the roster. Now imagine Jackson the leader of a Warriors team without Davis.

Davis leaving the Warriors will have a ripple effect that will impact just about everyone in the organization. There’s no way Nelson can coach the Warriors the same way with Davis not running the point.

Nelson intimated Monday that Ellis could play the point, but that’s not the best way to head into the season. Nelson tried to play Ellis some at point guard at the beginning of last season and it didn’t work well.

Don’t forget about Warriors president Robert Rowell and executive vice president of basketball operations Chris Mullin.

It appeared as though they were on the verge of officially bringing the Warriors’ franchise back after that dozen dark-year period. But that task will be significantly harder to accomplish without Davis.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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