For much of its existence, the D-League has been a proving ground. New ideas, rules, players, and coaches can all try to advance their career on a less competitive and exposed stage. Whether it's draft letdowns, or raw talents, many young players have found this proving ground very helpful, but in the case of Baron Davis, things are a bit different.
He isn't unproven. Most thirteen-year veterans have nothing to prove, but Davis isn't the average player. Ever since his emotional departure from the Knicks in 2012, looking up at the roof of Madison Square Garden from a stretcher, many thought we had seen the last of Baron Davis, and he isn't going out that way.
However, the hunger has never left him. He's been trying to get back in the game he loves for year, and is hungry as ever for a chance from an NBA team. While many veterans would opt to play overseas, or give up the game, Davis refuses to surrender.
Davis doesn't want to come back solely to show off some cool suits courtside, or to suit up for a minute at the end of a blowout. The ones that play are playing meaningless minutes for lost seasons, and the ones on good teams are get scarce minutes.
Not to mention, Davis hasn't exactly tore up the D-League. Granted, he shouldn't be expected to redo the Kirilenko dunk on Jordan Mickey, but he's been playing in the shadows of younger players on the 87ers, most notably #1 prospect Russ Smith.
Davis is definitely rusty, but he hasn't proved anything more than his name as of yet. He had a fun return game, setting up the young guys and playing aggressive, yet he hasn't been drawing much attention.
A key part of his game, sheer athleticism, is impossible at this point. How the veteran adapts, and changes who he is for his circumstances can define the comeback effort, and whether it's wasted. Comparing him to his D-League competition, he's 36 years old, with injuries coming back to him, against players in peak physical condition. He's trying to rejoin the ranks of some of the best athletes in the world, while pushing himself to the limit after a four year hiatus.
Against all odds, Davis isn't cowering from adversity. He's currently suffering from a minor tweak he sustained against the Bakersfield Jam, which has definitely limited him so far.
The sad part however, is that this dream of a former star coming back, a man who loves the game triumphantly returning, doesn't look to realistic right now. It takes a special player to be called up, someone who teams believe can make a difference, and it just doesn't seem probable a team decides to take a risk on Baron Davis to make that difference.
The way of the D-League isn't the usual route, not many players of Davis's caliber have returned to the D-League, and none of them have gotten back to the promised land. The Davis comeback might be fun for fans, but this seems more like an Antoine Walker D-League story than a Hassan Whiteside one.