Feb 17, 2011, 3:35 PM EDT
Blake Griffin wants to be just a regular guy.
Not on the court — there he is fully at home on the stage. There he wants to win. He wants to destroy you. And dunk on you ferociously.
But when your dunks electrify stadiums and bring life to a dormant franchise, when you have the kind of athletic gifts Griffin does, there is no being a regular guy off the court.
Especially not in Los Angeles, where people make a career out of latching on to the new, hot thing. Not in a city where Rihanna stops by outside the Clippers locker room to say “hi.” Especially not All-Star weekend, when his viral fame is about to explode into the national spotlight.
But Griffin comes from a different world than the bright lights of Hollywood. He’s an Oklahoma kid, born and raised.
“I miss my family and friends the most,” Griffin said. “Also I miss being just a regular guy – the relative anonymity that being from Oklahoma City brings.”
His ties to those Oklahoma roots were in evidence Wednesday, when media entered the Clipper locker room post game to see Griffin with his head in his hands, distraught. He had just learned an old friend from Oklahoma, a former teammate and Tulsa football player, had died from cancer.
Griffin may live near the beach now, but he is as connected to home as ever. He admits there are things to like about Los Angeles — the restaurants, the weather, the beach — but Griffin is not going Hollywood. He’s still an Oklahoma boy at heart, with a different makeup than many who gravitate to Los Angeles.
“I’ll never change who I am. ‘Celebrity’ is really not who I am,” Griffin said. “That does not motivate me at all. Wanting to be the best player that I can be and help my team win games is all the motivation I need.”
But make no mistake, he is a celebrity. He certainly is in NBA circles. The NBA is already a league of guys who won the genetic lottery, yet his NBA peers see Griffin as a freak of nature. Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James tweet about his dunks. On more than one occasion I’ve heard NBA players ask, as they are dressing after their game, if Griffin played that night because they wanted to catch his highlights.
His powerful, fearsome dunks have propelled him to being a huge favorite heading into Saturday night’s All-Star Dunk Contest. But staged dunks for this exhibition are different than throwing it down in a game.
“I don’t think any of that bothers him. I really don’t,” said Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro of the difference. “It’s just his personality, he loves the stage, he’s a competitive kid and loves the challenge of it. This is just another thing for him to excel at.”
Griffin is much more than dunks, though. Other teams are learning that the hard way. He’s got a midrange game that is coming along. As the double teams have started to come earlier and harder this season, Griffin has shown a real patience with the ball and ability to make the correct pass out of the post.
“I am proud of my passing and I really think that my motor is helping out a lot this season,” Griffin said. “I have always prided myself on playing hard every play. I feel I have done that. I would like to improve on my outside shot to make it a consistent weapon and to become a better free throw shooter.”
Griffin was the No. 1 pick in 2009, but missed all of his first season in the NBA due to a stress fracture in his left kneecap, something he injured landing on a preseason dunk, in what seemed an innocuous play at the time. That meant he got to learn some things just watching the NBA up close. He was with the team at every game, in a suit just behind the bench.
But watching and actually playing through the physical and mental grind of a full NBA season are different things. He’s not sure if the physical or mental side is harder.
“Both are extremely hard adjustments,” Griffin said. “I have taken a lot of double teams and have been defended very physically. I am at the tail end of my first extended road trip and it is very tiring. It is hard to recall where exactly you are (literally) at times!”
Somehow you have no doubt Griffin will adjust to the physical on the court challenges.
Off the court, here’s to hoping he never really changes — we don’t need more celebrities in the NBA. We need more guys with a real passion for the game. We need more Griffins.
May 17, 2013, 10:45 PM EDT
Phil Jackson has a new book coming out, so he will be spending plenty of time talking it up at various media outlets in the coming weeks. The tour has begun in earnest, and the juiciest quotes from the book are beginning to be released. If there’s one subject Jackson can speak on with absolute…
May 17, 2013, 9:33 PM EDT
Vinny Del Negro coached the Clippers to a franchise-best 56 regular season wins, yet he is a man without a contract for next season. It’s been widely assumed that the team would go in another direction after L.A. was bounced from the playoffs in the first round, especially after getting out to a two games…
May 17, 2013, 8:07 PM EDT
George Hill played 37 minutes in the Pacers’ Game 4 win over the Knicks, and led the team in scoring with a game-high 26 points. So when the news broke shortly before tip-off of Game 5 that he had been ruled out due to a concussion, the collective head-scratching of when this might have happened…
May 17, 2013, 7:41 PM EDT
In 2009, Greg Oden averaged 16.7 points, 12.8 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per 36 minutes. After injury, Oden finally looked like the No. 1 pick (at least when not compared to Kevin Durant), and people were getting excited. Of course, you know how the story ends. More injuries for Oden, who hasn’t played since. Well,…
May 17, 2013, 7:24 PM EDT
As my friends can attest, I’m not always the smoothest guy around. But even I know to make a little small talk before trying to score a number. Apparently, the Spurs just rushed to the point when they were set up with Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas. Jason Lloyd of Ohio.com: Thomas said teams asked him…
May 17, 2013, 6:53 PM EDT
Jerry Sloan is 71 years old. He’s a Hall of Famer. He spent 21 of his last 23 seasons coaching with either John Stockton or Deron Williams as his point guard. You think he wants to coach a team that’s hoping Brandon Jennings is its point guard next season? In the nicest terms possible –…
May 17, 2013, 6:19 PM EDT
It’s been a while since someone notable has weighed in on Derrick Rose’s decision not to return from his ACL injury this season, and I figured it his name would stay out of the headlines a little longer, considering the Bulls’ next game is in October. But Bradley Beal stepped up and filled the Rose-less…
May 17, 2013, 5:06 PM EDT
Phil Jackson has a book to sell — “11 Rings” out May 21 (so he doesn’t count the two as a player with the Knicks?) — so you’re going to see a lot of him in your media space ver the next few weeks. The man knows how to be a salesman. As part of…
May 17, 2013, 4:23 PM EDT
Harrison Barnes had a solid regular season, making the All-Rookie first team as a debatable choice for that honor. He started 81 games for the playoff-bound Warriors, but Barnes took a back seat to Stephen Curry, David Lee, Klay Thompson, Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and, when healthy, Andrew Bogut. Again being the seventh banana on…
May 17, 2013, 4:14 PM EDT
Generally, the cure for plantar fasciitis is rest. As in stay off your foot for a while. Which really didn’t work for Joakim Noah in the playoffs. But now that the Bulls are eliminated there is a question about whether it is just rest and some treatment that he needs, or whether surgery is an…
May 17, 2013, 2:55 PM EDT
The puzzle pieces have changed, but the picture of the sailboat they form has not. Under Frank Vogel, the Pacers have relied heavily on their starters. Between them, George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert excel in all areas of the court, offensively and defensively, and really balance each other. But…
May 17, 2013, 2:28 PM EDT
It was a throwaway line Zach Randolph said himself after a physical game early in the season against the Thunder and Kendrick Perkins, “I don’t bluff.” My first thought when I heard it was “wish I was playing poker against him.” But the line caught on to describe the them, and it’s now the chorus…
May 17, 2013, 2:10 PM EDT
No big man is going to be battling in the paint with Roy Hibbert and the physical front line of the pacers and not get a little banged up. After the Knicks win in Game 5 center Tyson Chandler said his back and his knee were bothering him. But this isn’t the time of year…
May 17, 2013, 1:35 PM EDT
Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins is not under contract for next season. As much as the Brooklyn Nets would like to have a shot at Hollins, both sides expect he will come back to Memphis next season. Hollins talked about that on the Dan Patrick show Friday. He also talked about the San Antonio Spurs…
May 17, 2013, 1:07 PM EDT
Whatever happened with the sale of the Kings, one thing was a lock — big front office changes and a coaching change were on the way. Now that the deal is done and the Kings will be staying in Sacramento, don’t expect it to be long before you see changes — Geoff Petrie and Keith…
May 17, 2013, 12:30 PM EDT
There are not a lot of iconic shots unique to players in the NBA. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Skyhook comes to mind. So does Dirk Nowitzki and the one-legged fadeaway jumper — a shot that gets big time treatment in the latest NBA playoff ad. You’ll see a lot of this one on your television…
May 17, 2013, 11:58 AM EDT
If you need to know the value of Chris Copeland to the Knicks and their small-ball lineup, all you needed to do was watch Game 5 against the Pacers Thursday, when he had 13 points and four board, helping key a season-extending win for the Knicks. Even if coach Mike Woodson didn’t recognize Copeland’s value…
May 17, 2013, 11:08 AM EDT
I didn’t know it could grow a lot more after J.J. Redick said he didn’t speak to his own coach during the playoffs, but I guess the sentiment he is gone from the Bucks has indeed grown. Redick is a free agent this summer that the Bucks would like to keep but has a lot…
May 17, 2013, 10:38 AM EDT
Kobe Bryant said a couple years back that every year he does not win another NBA ring is a “wasted year of my life.” Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder came into this season thinking NBA title. They had made it to Game 5 of the NBA finals last season and they wanted to…
- Kobe Bryant responds to Michael Jordan comparison from Phil Jackson 0
- Report: Vinny Del Negro to meet with Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling this weekend 2
- Bradley Beal said he’d lose respect for a teammate who acted like Derrick Rose 24
- George Hill injury jeopardizes Pacers’ identity 1
- Memphis Grizzlies have new anthem: “We Don’t Bluff” 8
- Swimmer Phelps denies comeback rumors
- PHT: Crosby's hat trick powers Penguins past Senators
- PFT: Jets' Goodson gets five gun and drug charges
- PFT: Gronkowski 'probably' needs back surgery, too
- PFT: Seahawks' Irvin suspended for violating PED policy
- Orb favored to take Preakness, set up Triple try
- What to watch for at the Preakness
- Play Video: Grizzlies ready for 'running' Spurs
- Play Video: Durant won't 'compromise himself' like other stars
- Play Video: Knicks avoid elimination
- Play Video: Heat finish off Bulls, James 'has no energy left'
- Play Video: Health woes make Heat vulnerable
- Play Video: Good news for Sacramento, Kings stay