SAN FRANCISCO Baron Davis is on the verge of signing a long-term deal with the Los Angeles Clippers, a day after the point guard shocked the Golden State Warriors by opting out of the final season of his contract to become a free agent.
Though Davis refused to directly confirm an ESPN.com report that he has agreed to sign with Golden State's Pacific Division rivals, he left no doubt about his upcoming move to Southern California.
Davis already was speaking about the Warriors in the past tense Tuesday night before attending the private Bay Area premiere of "Made in America," a documentary he produced about gang life in his native Los Angeles.
"It's tough, but you have to do what's best," said Davis, his usually bushy beard trimmed short. "You have to do what's fair. I'm happy with where I'm going. A big reason is because of the impact and the things that I can do going forward. I knew I could have done them here and created all kinds of good things and positive things in the community, and ultimately, me going home helps me make an impact on young kids."
The 29-year-old Davis, a former UCLA star who has never made a secret of his desire to play in his hometown, 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 48 wins the best record by a non-playoff team in recent NBA history. A year earlier, Davis was the catalyst for Golden State's trip to the second round of the playoffs, ending a 12-season postseason drought and including a stunning upset of top-seeded Dallas in the first round.
On Monday, Davis surprised the Warriors and most league observers by opting out of the final year of his long-term contract, turning down $17.8 million for next season to become an unrestricted free agent.
PAUL NEARING EXTENSION: Chris Paul's agent plans to travel to New Orleans today with the intention of completing a contract extension that would keep the All-Star and Team USA point guard with the Hornets for an additional three to five years.
Lance Young, a senior director of the sports marketing and management company Octagon, said Tuesday that he had spoken to Hornets general manager Jeff Bower by phone and that they were in general agreement on the terms of an extension for Paul, who has one season remaining on his current contract.
"We seem to be pretty much on same page," Young said. "A little tweak here and there and we'll probably get it done in the next 48 hours."
Paul is seeking the maximum pay allowable under the league's collective bargaining agreement, or about 25 percent of the NBA salary cap with 10 percent raises going forward. Such a deal would pay Paul from $60 million to more than $80 million, depending on the length of the contract.
BOBCATS, OKAFOR PREPPING: The Charlotte Bobcats vs. Emeka Okafor. Part II. For the second straight summer, the Bobcats will try to lock up the first draft pick in team history to a long-term contract. This time, however, the sense of urgency is greater because Okafor becomes a restricted free agent Tuesday.
While the Bobcats can match any offer another team makes and few teams have the salary cap space to offer the power forward big money managing partner Michael Jordan showed some concern about getting a deal done with Charlotte's top rebounder, shot blocker and defensive force.
"We're going to do everything, but sometimes negotiations can be tough," Jordan said last week. "We felt like we put out a great value for Emeka last year and here we are dealing with the same situation."
SPURS' BARRY OPTS OUT: Spurs guard Brent Barry opted out of his contract and became a free agent on Tuesday. Barry was part of a February trade with Seattle that sent him, center Francisco Elson and a 2009 first-round draft pick to the SuperSonics in exchange for forward Kurt Thomas. Barry, 36, re-signed with the Spurs in March. Barry, a career .407 3-point shooter, averaged 7.1 points in 31 games with the Spurs last season and 5.2 points during the playoffs.
BLAZERS, FERNANDEZ REACH DEAL: The Portland Trail Blazers have reached an agreement to sign Spanish guard Rudy Fernandez. Fernandez previously announced his intention to join the NBA, but the Trail Blazers could not announce his agreement to sign until Tuesday because of league rules. "Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge, I can't wait to play with them," Fernandez said in a statement. "We will do nice things!"
Fernandez has played the past seven seasons for DKV Joventut Badalona of the Spanish ACB League. Last season he averaged 21.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.2 steals for the team, which won both the ULEB Cup and the Copa del Rey.
NBA HIRES REFS CHIEFS: The NBA hired Army Maj. Gen. Ronald L. Johnson on Tuesday as senior vice president of referee operations, a newly created position to help strengthen the league's officiating programs following the Tim Donaghy scandal. The move splits executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson's role into two positions, a plan commissioner David Stern announced last fall. Johnson will oversee all aspects of officiating, while Jackson will continue to handle all other domestic and international basketball matters Johnson recently retired after 32 years of service as a combat engineer. He was commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region division, from 2003-04, responsible for overseeing $18 billion of reconstruction in Iraq.
"Ron's wealth of leadership and management experience, together with his engineering expertise in areas such as systems analysis, processes, and operations, make him an ideal candidate to lead our officiating program," Stern said in a statement. "Our referees are the best in the world but they never stop striving to improve and Ron has made a career out of getting the very best out of people."