Blake Griffin: What is and What Should Have Been
By Chris DeClou
Flash back to the 2010-2011 season. LeBron James had just begun “The College Years” of his career, joining the Miami Heat over the summer. Kobe Bryant wasn’t making his Muse-cage videos for ESPN as a retired man, rather he and the Los Angeles Lakers weren’t the dysfunctional franchise that they are now, aiming to three-peat as NBA champions. Kawhi Leonard had yet to dream of becoming “The Klaw”, James Harden wasn’t the beard; Stephen Curry wasn’t the record-breaking 2x MVP and champion we know him to be today, and Russell Westbrook hadn’t begun the triple-double tear he is on now.
None of these superstars, premature and otherwise, had yet to become so. Some weren’t even projected to become such All-NBA players. The man of the moment was Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin. Yes, Blake Griffin, the oft-injured, flat jump-shooting, fourth quarter folding All-star everyone knows today. Now that isn’t to say Blake Griffin cannot play; after all, he is a 5x all-star. However, Blake Griffin has not lived up to the expectations bestowed upon him as a rookie coming out of Oklahoma. He was thought to be a franchise changer. A superstar who could be the first option on a championship contending team. His combination of size, speed, jaw-dropping athleticism, and natural passing ability was rivaled by very few. He would even help lead the NBA into a newer model of how the Power-Forward position would be played. No longer would the position just be held down by players who could play with their backs to the basket. Griffin would be a high-flying one-man wrecking crew. The Los Angeles Clippers were on their way to greatness, or so we thought.
As a rookie, Griffin came out steam rolling every and anyone who would dare to jump with him, averaging 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 3.8 assists over the course of 82 games (per ESPN). Griffin was the first rookie to be an all-star since Yao Ming, and even won the 2010 NBA dunk contest by jumping over a KIA* (the hood of a KIA, but who’s nitpicking?). During the lockout season of 2011-2012, the Clippers would acquire Hornets super point guard Chris Paul after his initial trade to the Lakers was nixed by then-commissioner David Stern. The Clippers would soon form “Lob City”, a young team with championship aspirations and the starting core to do so.
Since 2011, however, the Clippers have not been able to become the championship contenders that most had hoped for them. With a top-flight point guard in Chris Paul, sharpshooter extraordinaire in JJ Redick, Blake Griffin, the uber-athletic DeAndre Jordan, and a great coach in Doc Rivers, the Clippers can just never seem to get out of their own way. Some point to their lack of bench production, others point to their lack of a perimeter threat at the small forward position, but a good portion of the blame can be pointed at original Clipper in Blake Griffin. Since his sophomore campaign, Griffin has yet to complete a full season. Since the 2013-2014 season, Blake has not played in at least 70 games, often ready to return from some form of injury by the time the post season begins.
Due to these injuries and criticisms from analysts and contemporaries alike, Griffin’s high-flying act has since ended. Critics accused Blake of lacking the ability to develop a post-game and a jump shot. So, Blake responded by developing an average mid-range game and adding a few post moves to his repertoire to prolong his career. In doing so, his leaping ability remained dormant. However, the injuries continued to pile up. Since 2014, According to FOX Sports, Griffin has suffered from back spasms, a staph infection, a torn quadricep, a broken hand, a sore quadricep, sore right knee, an aggravated quad tendon, and now a plantar plate injury, keeping him out of a tied series against the Utah Jazz. Griffin can display flashes of his former explosiveness, but it is no longer the devastating force that it once was.
This is more than likely the Clippers last ride together as a unit. Six years in the playoffs, and the Clippers have nothing to show for it outside of second round playoff exits. What was supposed to be a championship-contending team will now be remembered as disappointing era in the Clippers franchise, and it will still be the best era of the Clippers franchise to date. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and JJ Redick are all free agents. Blake is still in the prime of his career, and while his injury history won’t stop him from seeing a max offer this summer, his lack of post season success will always be a stain on his career, much like it has been for Chris Paul; the greatest point guard of his era, yet no post season success to match an illustrious career. Maybe Blake can find success elsewhere. Yet as a Los Angeles Clipper, he will be remembered as a good player who could not live up to great expectations.