Blake Griffin is a maximum contract player. Although max salaries are thrown around way too liberally around the NBA, the Los Angeles Clippers understand Griffin's importance to the franchise both on and off the court.
On the court, Griffin is an absolute beast. He's averaged better than 20 points and 10 rebounds in each of the last two seasons, and the incredibly athletic forward hasn't missed a single game since sitting out his rookie season with a knee injury.
Still playing out his rookie contract, Griffin will be eligible to sign a contract extension this year before becoming a restricted free agent following the 2012-13 season.
The Clippers currently have a lot of holes on the roster, but this is a team that has built its entire roster around Griffin. A marketing machine who puts butts in the Staples Center seats, Griffin brings an element to the Clippers that the franchise never previous had.
Before Neil Olshey left Los Angeles for the general manager gig in Portland, he guaranteed that Griffin would be a Clipper for life.
Now, it's time for the franchise to make good on that promise despite the fact that Olshey is no longer in the fold.
Owner Donald Sterling needs to send a message to the rest of the NBA that he's not messing around when it comes to building a contender. Fortunately for Sterling's team, the departure of Olshey isn't expected to impact Griffin's decision (via ESPN's Marc Stein and Kevin Arnovitz).
But one source close to the process told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that Olshey's departure would have "no significant impact" on Griffin's decision, despite the fact that it was Olshey whose moves put the Clippers in position to trade for Paul in December when the Hornets' original three-team trade to send Paul to the Lakers was canceled by NBA commissioner David Stern, who was acting as the Hornets' lead decision-maker because the team was still under league ownership.
That's not exactly a shocker. Very rarely does the departure of a general manager turn a player off from potentially signing a maximum contract extension with a certain team, but there was an interesting nugget in the same ESPN report.
The Clippers, sources say, continue to believe that Griffin will accept an extension this summer as opposed to playing out the 2012-13 season and becoming a restricted free agent in July 2013.
If Los Angeles truly believes that Griffin won't jeopardize his chance at garnering a max extension by playing out the final year on his deal, the team should be exhausting all avenues to get this deal done.
Locking up Griffin isn't just about making sure he remains in a Clippers uniform for the foreseeable future—it's about Chris Paul's future with the team as well.
The Clippers, as the roster is currently constructed, have carefully preserved cap space for the 2013-14 season. Signing Griffin to a max extension would leave enough room for Paul to also sign a maximum contract.
If Los Angeles waits on extending Griffin, it's going to be awfully difficult to accommodate both him and Paul on the roster without making other moves.
The last thing the Clippers want or need moving forward is for Paul, who completely changed the culture of the team upon his arrival, to bolt for a new club following next year.
The long-term plan for bringing the Clippers sustained success has to be mapped out very carefully, and one crucial misstep along the way will be extremely costly.