Golden State Warriors forward Mickael Pietrus is on a roll lately, and he gives all the credit to new teammate Baron Davis.
Pietrus scored 21 points off the bench Wednesday night, his fourth straight game in double figures, to help the Warriors to a 113-109 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Davis, acquired in a Feb. 24 trade from New Orleans, led the Warriors with 25 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, and 15 assists. The Warriors are 10-7 since acquiring Davis and have won six of their last seven games.
"He (Davis) has really helped get the ball in my hands," Pietrus said. "He’s a lot of fun to play with and helps us all get good shots."
Warriors coach Mike Montgomery said Pietrus was benefiting from having Davis on the floor.
"(Pietrus) is happy, he is positive," Montgomery said. "Baron is getting him the ball."
Pietrus has shot 49.7 percent from the field since Davis joined the team in a Feb. 24 trade with New Orleans, up from 37.1 percent before Davis arrived. During a five-game stretch from March 23 to April 1, Pietrus averaged 18.6 points; for the season, he averages 9.0.
``He's enjoying playing with Baron,'' Warriors Coach Mike Montgomery said. ``Like everybody else, he's less concerned about getting his shots. He sees the ball being shared.''
Pietrus had frustrated coaches and teammates with his propensity for taking bad shots. It wasn't rare to see one of the coaches flail his arms on the bench after one of Pietrus' rushed three-point attempts, or a teammate roll his eyes after Pietrus forced a fade-away jumper.
Lately, he has been more likely to fake that three-pointer and drive hard to the basket. As a result, he has been getting to the basket a lot more (he attempted 37 free throws during that five-game stretch). He has traded a few step-back jumpers for alley-oops.
``He's not settling for jump shots,'' assistant coach Keith Smart said. ``He has the ability from three-point range, mid-range and to drive and finish in traffic over people.''
Pietrus said he struggled early on because he didn't know when and for how long he would be playing. Wanting so badly to show how good he is, Pietrus was trying to do too much when he got his chance.
``It's hard when you don't play,'' Pietrus said.
Many in the organization point to Davis as a big reason for Pietrus' improved play. Davis has said he likes Pietrus' game, and has taken on a mentor role with the second-year player. Sold on Davis' reputation as one of the NBA's best players, Pietrus has accepted the role as Davis' understudy.
After Davis' first practice with the Warriors, Pietrus offered a token of respect: He interrupted an interview to hand Davis a Gatorade.
``He respects Baron as an All-Star,'' Montgomery said. ``He sees Baron as a clear-cut leader he's willing to listen to.''
``What us coaches say only goes so far,'' Smart said. ``You've got to have your best player step up and say something. That's what Baron has done.''
Davis has had Pietrus' ear since he arrived. In Davis' first game as a Warrior, against Detroit on Feb. 27, Pietrus took a rushed three-pointer in the third quarter. During the next break, Davis told him, in so many words, it wasn't a good shot.
``A lot of it has to do with Baron,'' swingman Calbert Cheaney said. ``Baron has given him a lot of confidence. He's making great strides.''