Featured Gallery, NBA / Nov 22, 2010 / 11:00 am

Measuring the Savior-ness of Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin (photo. Nicky Woo)

You could see it coming, albeit it took an extra year to truly surface. You could feel the woosh as it swept by, but that feeling was never quite as strong as it is now. Too bad it didn’t have an odor, for if it did, the smell would undoubtedly make you cringe, more so for its authority than the stench. This force of nature, the amazingly nimble, slippery, yet destructively dangerous power that exploded out of this young NBA season was supposed to happen.

But not like this.

Blake Griffin shouldn’t be doing what he’s doing. The NBA has seen a lot of great athletes over the course of its 63 years of existence, but hardly any have ever sought and destroyed the way Griffin has through his first 14 games. The not-so-rookiesque line of 18.5 points and 10.9 rebounds a game is scary in itself. But those digits are almost tame compared to the brutality the 2009 No. 1 overall pick is unleashing on both NBA rims and inquiring opposition across the country. His banishment to the jayvee team in Los Angeles and a year off, thanks to a stress fracture in his left knee, must’ve made us all forget.

The Los Angeles Clippers aren’t known for much of anything besides failure. They’ve taken many a talented player and turned them into mush, caricatures of themselves. Back when they were stationed in San Diego, the Clippers acquired the once-great Bill Walton, whose foot issues became increasingly troublesome once he got there. He was never the same again. Reoccurring knee issues, which were almost immediate once he donned the Clipper white, red and blue, zapped the basketball zeal right out of Danny Manning, leaving the No. 1 overall pick in the 1988 Draft a part-time player. The Clippers also made Michael Olowokandi and Darius Miles two of their highest Draft picks in team history, and two of the biggest busts in League history. And now Baron Davis is the latest victim, a once spectacular mix of skill and athleticism, morphing into a bloated, numbed version of something that was once so promising. Not all of this was their fault. You can’t blame Donald Sterling for everything. Yet it seems like tragedy is consistently following the franchise.

That cloud, that dreaded mask of negativity passes over no one. Fans hoped last season’s injury was enough setback for their latest savior. Nope, it still hangs around, a foreboding horizon.

It took less than a month of this season for eyebrows to start raising at Griffin. No doubt, he has probably been head coach Vinny Del Negro‘s most consistent player thus far, beginning with a fabulous 20 and 14 outing on opening night against Portland. But L.A. has stumbled to a 1-13 start. As one loss begets another and another, those Ls piling up in a heap, there were signs. Against the Pacers last Thursday night, the same dazed and beaten look that’s so familiar to Clipper fans was there once again with Griffin as he roosted on the bench during a 107-80 Pacer win.

ESPN’s Bill Simmons, a Clipper “default” super-fan, described that look like this: I knew this could be bad, and I’d been warned by everybody, but still, I didn’t know it would be THIS bad.

In the course of an 82-game season, stretching from late-October until mid-April, with many nights spent in the dead of a Minnesota storm or in the boredom of a back-to-back in Charlotte, that feeling could easily overcome a rookie. It’s basically expected.

Can one night change everything? All of that despair, dejection and hopelessness, can it all be destroyed with one tremendous 39 minute performance? Amar’e Stoudemire might think so. Danilo Gallinari knows so…he met that beast head on and came away whimpering. But Griffin’s mind-bending 44 point, 15 rebound, 7 assist outing on Saturday night against the Knicks, a game so complete that no other rookie has put up numbers quite like it since Oscar Robertson did over 50 years ago, has everyone on edge.

That entire game was like one long eclipse, Griffin seemingly gaining steam as the night went along. He was hitting fadeaways off the glass, and trying to dunk whenever he touched the ball. By the fourth quarter, every time the rookie got anywhere close to the basketball, you could hear the collective hum of the crowd grow anxiously. Even on the court, Stoudemire had to raise an eyebrow at Griffin, obviously partly impressed, but also in shock. That entire arena was ready to give Blake Griffin a standing ovation until April, overjoyed to have hope. Hell, he started receiving MVP chants towards the end of the game. In a loss. As a rookie. No one does that.

Clipper studio analyst Don MacLean said after the night was over: “It wasn’t a game. It was a performance.” For Griffin, there’s no telling what might lie ahead.

More than likely, the curse of the Clipper won’t be vanishing any time soon. More than likely, Blake Griffin will flee the scene before it improves. That’s what’s expected, or at least par for the course when it comes to being a Clipper. You either fade, like Baron Davis. Or you leave. But, whoever said Griffin was just “par?” Off the court, he might be normal, but on it? Lord help your soul if you are between him and the rim. Regular need not ever come to describe Blake Griffin.

Lets just hope for the sake of the NBA, and for the sake of the fans, the Clippers not only fail to soak up Griffin’s ambition, power and highlight-driven game, but that Griffin carries them along with him for the ride.

He’s made them relevant. Now hopefully Griffin will make them winners.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

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  • http://www.dimemag.com Aron Phillips

    Great piece Sweeney!

  • control

    Griff already experienced the losing that comes with being a Clipper, he was just on the bench for it.

    The Clips are never going to have success while that living piece of shit Sterling is the owner. What Blake has to do is go out and get his, rape every stat and gun for all the records he can, set himself up for a huge pay day SOMEWHERE ELSE. I’d normally never condone not playing the right way, and not sacrificing your own game for the team…but this is the Clippers we are talking about. He needs to get out of there before the curse catches up to him for round 2, he’s a beast but there ain’t no fighting the curse.

  • nizzio

    Griffin would be PERFECT in Phoenix right now. He’d be killing the other team and Nash would love to execute the pick and roll with him.

  • Rabbitman

    You forgot to mention Shaun Livingston in this article….

  • http://NBA.com Adam Flomenbaum

    Sweeney Todd – still got it. @ Nizzio definitely would be killing it, but he still doesn’t play defense yet.

  • Kudabeen

    It is a shame that talents like him and Gordon are going hard for a team that isn’t comprised to capitalize on it. The two them are really playing at a high level. I don’t know why they were so quick to grab Vinny Del Negro, they need a top down change in culture. This team has too much talent to only have one win…44, 15, and 7 with the loss is crazy.

    No D or Discipline and that is on the coach

  • el mar

    his game’s unbelievable, he’s definately in that shawn kemp, dominique wilkins, lebron, dwight… category
    clips are a team for the future, at the moment they’re fun to watch and since they’re not projected to reach playoffs I suppose nobody gives a sh1t if they keep pilling up losses

  • Jason

    R.O.Y.

  • gertie

    sweeney, you write like the clippers play. Is Dime owned by Sterling and can’t hire an editor?

    “No doubt, he has probably been…” which is it? No doubt? or probably? you can’t have them both.

  • Zippy

    I hope you’re wrong about Baron Davis. it’s a shame he didn’t come into this season healthy and in shape, but I hope he can turn things around and start doing his thing soon

  • Vinny

    yea while Gallinari was whimpering he was dropping 31 himself -oh and Amare dunked on griffith’s head and the knicks won- so easy on the hype. He’s still a clipper and they suck.

  • Kosta
  • Phileus

    I always chuckle when readers like gertie pounce like eager children on minor grammatical or spelling mistakes, ignoring the deeper point of the articles. I guess some people don’t read to learn.

    The Clippers are a horrible franchise. Stern talked about reducing the number of teams, and the Clippers should be the first to go just on principle.

  • Promoman

    It’s not the Clippers’ Curse in Baron’s case. People have been wondering about him for years.

  • http://www.roidrage.com Chicagorilla

    Im not sure if PHX would do this, but if im thd Clippers i make a run at Steve Nash. Nashty is the best player in the L at making his teammates better. Put him in Barons spot and hes got Blake and DeAndre for easy 20ppg and 10ppg off the bench almost all of dunks. Rasul 10ppg and Eric 15ppg. Kaman (if they can keep him in the trade) gets another 15 to 17ppg. Nash would avg about 15ppg 12apg. Their defense wont be great but they will win and make the playoffs. Would be the most exciting and most efficient team in the L. If the Clippers are smart thats who they go get. Him or try to steal Steph Curry from GState. The clips can offer up draft picks, Kaman(whom Vinny doesnt knw how to coach anyway), and Amineu(trade him before everyone realizes hes a Travis Outlaw clone). After that trade Blake game hits another level but Eric may decline without having the ball so much.