I recently witnessed Blake Griffin for my first time, and afterward I was feeling mildly heretical.
I watched the Clippers play the Timberwolves, and I went in expecting to witness inhuman acts I had never seen before. Having watched the majority of his games on League Pass, I had heard all the comparisons, a combination of Malone, Kemp and Barkley.
I was sincerely let down afterward. Blake was clearly a young player. He seemed much too interested in dunks. On too many possessions, he pointed to the rim, asking for an alley oop. On offense, he seemed disinterested in running around setting screens, doing the things that post players do. His defense seemed suspect. He complained to the refs. A lot. When players do this, I get ulcers.
But the more I thought about the actual game, the more I was impressed. Griffin demanded the team’s best defender at all times while he was on the court. Not just any defender, but a post defender, usually 7’2 Darko Milicic, a big guy who is supposed to be tying up the lane from wing slashers. Griffin punished him by downing jumper after jumper, shooting a very solid 12-20 from the field. Admittedly, 4 of those shots were thunderous dunks, but he proved clearly that defenders should respect his jumpers as much as his post game. Griffin also demonstrated excellent court awareness for a big man, not trying to do too much when he had the ball, consistently making the right pass. He wound up with 5 assists and 8 rebounds to match his 29 points.
The Clippers are a good young team, whose record is not indicative of their talent level. They clearly enjoy playing together. They will be getting lots of national TV coverage next year, thanks almost entirely to the Blake Show.