Baron Davis returns to practice, but can his ailing back bear New York’s wildest expectations?

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Abandon all expectations ye who enter here: alleged Knicks savior Baron Davis is officially playing basketball again.

Davis underwent a full practice for the first time since signing with New York in December, and according to the Associated Press, the team hopes he’ll be available for his regular season debut at some point during the team’s four-game road trip. Even if that’s the case, expectations of Davis’ performance should be tempered and suppressed, if not outright smothered. Davis has always been an impressive playmaker, but it will take him time to adjust to the speed of NBA basketball again and more time yet to adjust to the frenetic schedule of a lockout-shortened season.

Even then, Baron is only Baron; he may be a better set-up man than any one else on the Knicks roster, but that doesn’t mean his prolonged presence on the court will necessarily be a net positive. Will Davis fire up ill-advised three after ill-advised three? Will he give the Knicks some much-needed order? Will he compound the defensive problems caused by Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire? Will he really ride in on a unicorn to run simultaneous pick-and-rolls with Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler while still getting Anthony the shots he wants?

Davis is still capable of being a solid player, but it’s best for all involved if his potential play is treated as a long-shot hope. The Knicks are in trouble. That much has been made crystal clear with the team’s offensive idling, the apparent incompatibility of Stoudemire and Anthony, and the New York’s ongoing six-game losing streak. But as many have warned before me, putting too much pressure on Davis’ shoulders will only result in disappointment.

Hear, hear, Knicks fans: celebrate if Davis pans out as a nice addition. Shake your head and shrug if things go, sadly, as expected. He has a chance to improve this team, but nothing in Davis’ recent career points to him as being capable of bearing a burden as heavy as saving a middling franchise. Either way, we’re ticking closer and closer to Boom Day, and the weeks and months that will define this core’s immediate future.