OAKLAND, Calif. Golden State point guard Baron Davis elected to become a free agent Monday night, opting out of the final year of his contract with the Warriors in a surprise move.
Davis had until Monday night to decide whether to turn down his $17.8 million contract for next season, the final year of a six-year deal. The Warriors didn't expect him to opt out of the deal despite little progress in the parties' long-term contract negotiation, but club spokesman Raymond Ridder said they received a letter from Davis' agent, Todd Ramasar, late Monday indicating his intentions.
Davis still could return to Golden State as a free agent, but his opt-out clause was his only bit of leverage in forcing contract talks with the Warriors before next summer. The former All-Star also is now free to negotiate with other clubs, possibly facilitating a sign-and-trade deal with Golden State.
Davis, a 29-year-old veteran, repeatedly has said he intended to return to Golden State, but he might be displeased by Warriors coach Don Nelson's recent declarations about giving more playing time to Golden State's young players, even at the expense of a few victories next season. Nelson reiterated his plan Monday at a news conference to introduce draft picks Anthony Randolph and Richard Hendrix.
Golden State also failed to improve its roster by using its $10 million trade exception this summer. The exception, which was acquired when the Warriors traded Jason Richardson to Charlotte last June, was due to expire on Monday night.
Davis averaged 21.8 points, 7.6 assists and 4.7 rebounds while playing in all 82 games last season for the Warriors, who finished with the best record in recent NBA history for a non-playoff team.
Davis led Golden State to the second round of the playoffs in 2007, breaking a 12-year postseason drought for the franchise. He added to that achievement by leading the Warriors' first-round upset of top-seeded Dallas.