By Dennis J. Freeman
The Los Angeles Clippers are on the rise. The rest of the NBA had better take notice. The Clippers have the right nucleus of youth, veteran leadership and moxie to make some real noise this season. When the Clippers open the regular season on Christmas Day in a matchup against the Golden State Warriors, they’ll have one of the deepest teams in the league. They’ll also have one of the most exciting squads to watch as well.
They’re athletic. They’re long. They’re young. They’re well-coached. They’re focused on the goals they want to achieve as a team.
And they have Blake Griffin, last year’s NBA Rookie of the Year. Griffin is arguably the most spectacular player in the league, garnering mass attention with his array of highlight-reel plays and dunks. Griffin led the league in breathtaking moments last season with his above-the-rim game as he made a strong bid for league’s most valuable player honors.
Griffin’s biggest splash of the season came during the NBA All-Star weekend when he captured the slam dunk contest by jumping over a car for the winning flush. But Griffin’s presence on the basketball court is bigger than any dunk he’s made. It’s a lot bigger than the 22.5 points and 12.2 rebounds a game he produced last season. It’s a lot more than the countless franchise and rookie marks he established.
The great ones tend to do that. Their territory is limitless. Griffin’s game has no boundaries. The NBA and the public got a whiff of Griffin’s off-the-chain talents last season. No doubt, more eye-popping moments are expected this season from the NBA All-Star. Griffin, a “sudden” impact player, is a player capable of absolute dominance at any given time on the court.
His style of play has generated buzz and sparked intrigue about the possibilities that players are now seeking to come and play with him. As he addressed reporters during the team’s media day in Culver City, the 6-foot-10, 252-pound Griffin, said he’s never heard of the “Blake Griffin Effect” that has players wanting to sign with the Clippers because of him.
Griffin said it’s not about him, but rather players buying into what the Clippers are trying to build as a team.
“From our team standpoint, it’s about these guys wanting to be part of something, being part of something we’ve built here,” Griffin said. “It started with Coach (Vinny) Del Negro and his staff coming in and laying the foundation last year. Now we’re taking that a step further in year two, making it an environment you want to be a part of.”
Griffin automatically makes the Clippers a force to be reckoned with. Enamored and dripping in superstar greatness like Michal Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Julius (Dr. J.) Erving, Griffin is a once-in-a-generation player, a superior athlete capable of re-defining the league the way those legends did.
He is special. He is the real deal. But being great doesn’t come without hard work. Griffin works as hard any one when it comes to trying to learn and improve his game, said Del Negro.
“Blake is a worker,” De Negro said. “Blake is just touching the surface of where he is going to be. The game is going to continually slow down for him and get easier for him, because he works so hard. And he wants to be a great player. It’s just a matter of time. He has a bit of an arc on his shot. His shot release point is a little bit better.
“That’s because he works hard at it. It doesn’t happen because you talk about it. It happens because he’s in here-before practice and after practice. He knows where he has to get better. He’s working on those things…He is one of those guys who you have to tell, ‘Blake, get out of the gym. ‘”
One thing you don’t have to tell Griffin to do is buy into the rumor market about possible trades that has circulated around the team.
“As far as roster changes and all of that, that is not up to the players,” Griffin said.”That’s up to the front office wand what they feel is best. Whatever they think is best that is what the players on this team are going to go with. I love our team right now, and I think this team can get it done. Right now, we’re focused on that first game. Whatever happens in between that and now, happens.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers sports, social and racial justice, politics, equal rights, and entertainment. Dennis has over two decades of journalism experience. He earned a degree in journalism from Howard University. “I write what I’m passionate about.”