By Dennis J. Freeman
Playa Vista, CA- Much like the heralded Marvel superhero Thor, Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin can bring the down thunder. A look at some his gravity-defying dunks while posterizing one NBA star after another can attest to that fact.
But Griffin can also make it rain on the glass as well, snatching rebounds at a rate that only three other first-year NBA players have been able to match in league history.
After missing the entire season his rookie campaign due to a knee injury, Griffin took the NBA by storm, unleashing a monster statistical season all the while supplying the Clippers’ fan base with a jolt of spectacular entertainment.
With the postseason in full swing, Griffin received his just reward as he was named as the 2010-11 T-Mobile NBA Rookie of the Year at a press conference held at the Clippers’ training facility. Griffin, who averaged 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists a game, joined Ralph Sampson (1983-1984) and David Robinson (1989-1990) as players who were selected unanimously as Rookie of the Year.
“Everybody was involved,” Griffin said. “Everybody’s been unbelievably incredible in helping me get back from the injury to this point. We’re excited about where the Clippers are headed. We can’t wait until next year. I got some great advice from a lot of people.
“I think there’s a huge difference for me-from Game 1 to Game 82-not only physically, but mentally in knowing the game and understanding the game. I was just as lost as everybody else out there in training camp, trying to find our way, trying to find that area where I fit in.”
Starting 67 games, Griffin didn’t disappoint in proving why the Clippers made him the overall No. 1 draft pick in 2009 when he decided to leave the University of Oklahoma after his sophomore season. Griffin was one of just four players in the NBA this season to record at least 20 points and 12 rebounds and established franchise records for consecutive double-doubles and number of games (63) in which he grabbed 10 or more rebounds.
He finished third in the league in rebounds (989), second in free throws attempted and fourth in rebounds. It wasn’t so much what Griffin did to become an instant hit with fans this season; it was how he did it. A walking human highlight film, Griffin led the league in oohs and aahs and “I can’t believe he just did that.”
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said Griffin was well-deserving of the ROY honors.
“Through his hard work and determination, Blake proved that he deserves the honor,” Del Negro said in a released statement prior to the ceremony. “He had an absolutely incredible season, and he quickly became a leader for this team. After missing all of last season, it is obvious how much work he put in throughout the course of the year.”
Griffin had such a dominating season, he was chosen to play in the NBA All-Star game and won the Sprite Slam Dunk competition, bringing the house down at Staples Center with a two-handed, alley-oop dunk over the hood of a car. It’s a far cry from a year ago for Griffin, who broke his left kneecap and had to sit out his entire first year.
Griffin’s mother, Gail, who made the trip to Los Angeles with husband Tommy to see their son pick up the ROY trophy, said the former college player of the year was able to rebound from his heartbreaking injury by applying the values that was instilled in him.
“I was devastated for him, because I knew that it would be so hard on him to adjust to rehab,” Gail Griffin said. “I was so pleased seeing him being so optimistic about it and work hard. I knew how it was. He applied how he had been growing up. It was a little challenge for himself.
“He set a goal and he worked hard on it. That’s his spirit. That’s the kind of kid he always was. This is fabulous. He is just so happy to be living this dream. We’re just so happy for him.”