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Blake Griffin agrees with CP3: He needs to step up this year

Aug 15, 2013, 10:44 AM EDT

Blake Griffin AP

Chris Paul was pretty blunt about it — he thinks the Clippers can go as far as Blake Griffin takes them.

That’s a lot of weight on Griffin’s shoulders, but he told Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com that Paul was right.

“[Paul] has a huge role on this team,” Griffin said Thursday in an interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com. “He’s been the guy who has closed out a lot of games late for us.

“But in my mind, this is the year I need to step into that role and really help him shoulder that load. I’ll be right there with him at the end of games, being the guy that he can always count on.”

Hitting more than 66 percent of his free throws will help with that.

Griffin has critics who say all he can do is dunk, but they miss the point. First off, the guy is 24 and his game is still evolving and improving. Next, the dunk is the most efficient shot in basketball and if you can get it you should take it — and Griffin can get it. That is a great skill that is more than highlights, it’s sure points. Critics also miss that he has other parts of his game: Improved post moves, good passing out of the post, and his handles are much better when he faces up.

As for the midrange jumper, it’s improved but still needs work. Get him on his more comfortable left side of the court and he hit 39 percent from the midrange last season — not great but improved and good enough you need to respect the shot. Griffin knows what he needs to work on. (The right side and the rest of the midrange he struggled with last year.)

Griffin said he knows what he needs to work on.

“To be honest, I’m more excited about this upcoming season than I’ve ever been,” Griffin said. “My workouts with [shooting coach] Bob Thate and our coaches have been geared around figuring out how I’m going to be used this season.

“I’m doing a lot of stuff at the elbow, a lot of shooting. One of the things [new coach Doc Rivers] said to me was, ‘I don’t want you to be afraid to go 0-for-15.’ In other words, just have the mindset of a shooter. And with the work I’ve done this summer, I’m starting to get that confidence, and think like a shooter.”

If Griffin takes a step forward, it’s that much better for the Clippers. With the additions of J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley (two good three point shooters) the Clippers likely will have a top three NBA offense next season (if not the best). Griffin will be part of that.

But that’s not the side of the court that will determine how far they go. Defense will be. Griffin needs to show improved rotations on that end, as to a lot of Clippers in Doc Rivers’ new (to the Clippers) system.

  1. senorpapino - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    I’m not sure Griffin is still improving – in fact, the NBA seems to be catching on to his game. The following stats have all decreased each year he has been in the league:

    Points per game
    Points per 36
    Free throw attempts
    Rebounds per game
    Rebounds per 36
    OReb %
    DReb %
    Defensive Rating

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/g/griffbl01.html

    So it looks like the things he is supposed to be getting better at, he is getting worse. He needs to definitely improve the midrange, but even more so get better on the boards and on defense. He’s good for the highlights but his struggles really show when it matters the most – playoffs against other good power forwards.

    • eventhorizon04 - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:29 PM

      Blake Griffin is an interesting case. I’m not a Clippers fan, but I’ve watched him play a lot throughout his NBA career so far.

      He has significantly improved his skillset compared to his rookie year. As this article and other articles written by folks like Zach Lowe have noted, he’s a better (but still not good) jump shooter, he’s a better passer, he’s a better dribbler, and he’s added more variety to his post-up game. He’s also improved as a defender. Those are all things fans and analysts can see.

      However, as you said, his numbers have gone DOWN in his career.

      • eventhorizon04 - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:32 PM

        Some of that decrease is due to decreased minutes (38 per game as a rookie compared to 32 per game last year), but some stats like Reb % and Per 36 shouldn’t be affected by minutes.

        Some of that decrease is due to the Clippers having a deep bench that allows Griffin to take less responsibility even when Chris Paul is on the floor.

        But I also think that some of that decrease is also due to a lack of aggressiveness from Griffin. He doesn’t view every potential rebound as his birthright even though he can outleap any opposiing PF. He doesn’t demand more touches in the low post, often willing to defer to Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, etc.

        So while his skillset has improved, and decreased minutes and better teammates explain some of his production decline, I think the fact that he doesn’t volunteer to place more of a burden on himself by being more aggressive also plays a role.

      • casualcommenter - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:36 PM

        I’m guessing this is a reply to senorpapino’s comment?

        In any case, I agree. Griffin has become more skilled as a passer, low-post scorer, shooter, and defender compared to his rookie year, yet his production has gone down. His teammates and minutes tell part of the story, but ultimately, guys only post LeBron and Durant-type numbers if they take on LeBron and Durant-type responsibilities. Griffin should be playing with the intensity of Kenneth Faried whenever he’s on the floor given that Griffin is only averaging 32 minutes a game as a 24 year old, but Griffin disappears at times.

    • moseskkim - Aug 15, 2013 at 8:07 PM

      Clipps were great for most of the season and blew out teams with one of the best benches jcraw, Bledsoe, Barnes, odom and Hollins/turiaf. They wouldn’t need starters to come back for 4th quarter. If bg32 played more 4th quarters he wouldve averaged 20 and 11 easy

  2. imakcds - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    He’s young, works hard, I have no doubt he will improve his physical game.
    But I have repeatedly seen undesireable actions on the court (aka cheap shots) that have me questioning whether Blake can and will step up his mental and emotional toughness.
    Those cheap shots have not made me a fan of Griffin.
    Despite his crazy unparalleled dunking skills.

  3. beach305 - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    The whole “soft” label get’s thrown around a lot in this league so I don’t really pay munch attention to it. Fighting back if someone gives you a cheap shot is not smart either as it can cost your endorsements, fines, missed games.

    What Blake needs to work on his is free throws and jump shot. If he doesn’t that he will be a max player.

  4. leearmon - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    I love how Griffin apologist say “The dunk is the best shot, if you can get it no need to stop..” however when it comes to Dwight Howard the narrative becomes “All he can do is dunk” Make up your mind. Also you conveniently leave out how awful Griffin is on the defensive end. How someone as athletic and big should average more rebounds etc.

    He’s extremely overrated, but for whatever reason people love him and see his game through rose colored glasses.

  5. jerdogthompson - Aug 15, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    Seeing how all of you were taking on the role of leader on an NBA team at 24 I can totally see your points (sarcasm).

    Bottom line, this is the best Clipper squad assembled including Doc. If you think BG,DJ don’t improve offensively/defensively this year your only guilty of cognitive dissonance. I will wait while you google that.

    That is all for now, gotta get back to the beach.

    • Wammy Giveaway - Aug 15, 2013 at 2:18 PM

      Cognitive dissonance: when ideas, beliefs, values or emotional reactions clash with one another causing disequilibrium. In short, when a person tries to be something they’re not.

      Unfortunately, this is how the NBA works. The media, and to extent the fans, want every pro-basketball player to be the best of the best. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird. All these players have won multiple championships, and the media uses them as the ceiling of greatness. There are other great players to have never won a ring in their lives like Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller, but because they have failed to reach this ceiling, the media regards them as routes a player must never take. The fans take it a step further: calling them losers by chanting “No rings.” Some of the ring-less greats are furious, and often times wished they have gotten at least one.

      We’re at a point where we take Blake Griffin’s greatness – his highlights – as his only weapon. They’re so alluring, his dunks, alley-oops and showstopping numbers forces us to ignore all his other weaknesses, which according to the masses, seems to be playing basketball like an NBA player and not a street baller. And yeah – I’m aware of his nice guy attitude. He wants to kill people in the basketball court by his skills, not by being a thug. You’ll notice that all his teammates around him are suited to his personality. That’s why they have no enforces, rim protectors or defensive big man: because it could clash with Griffin’s personality. Sound familiar: reminds me a bit of Tim Duncan when he started out. And Gregg Popovich brought the best out of him.

      Anyway, there is a rumor that if the Clippers fail to dig deep into the playoffs because of Griffin’s regression, they will consider trading him to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Kevin Durant. ESPN LA’s John Ireland said this from a source within the Clippers, that Blake Griffin is so valuable, they will only trade him if the player they get back is Kevin Durant or LeBron James. Do you think Durant is a better player for the Clippers just because he made it to the Finals and has better stats than Griffin?

      Maybe Griffin isn’t the superstar that everybody wants him to be. Maybe he could be a role star, a combination between a role player who knows his role and a star would can attract free agents with his game. I think that alone should be enough for the price of admission, don’t you think?

      • Kurt Helin - Sep 1, 2013 at 11:22 AM

        I will say a few things about Griffin. First, few players work as hard on their game in the offseason, he has a very good work ethic. Second, if you think all he can do is dunk you don’t watch him closely. He is a fantastic passer out of the post when the double comes. He has a few moves out of the post that he can rely on. He has good handles now. His defense has improved but is not where it needs to be. His jumper is improved but is not where it needs to be. Does he go for the dunk a lot? Yes. He should. You should play to your strengths and his is his athleticism, he should use that to get efficient buckets. Like dunks.

        He’s not a No. 1 guy on a team right now, but he’s a No. 2. But the Clippers have a No. 1 at the point.

  6. ranfan12 - Aug 16, 2013 at 4:48 AM

    DJ needs to do something about those freethrows lol. At least make it to 60%

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