Blake Griffin is playing arguably the best basketball of his entire career, but it seems that no matter what he does, the All-Star forward seems destined to be the subject of trade rumors designed to push the Los Angeles Clippers over the championship edge.
Head coach Doc Rivers made it clear he finds these rumors farcical. Speaking on a report from ESPN's Chris Broussard that said the Clippers would consider trading Griffin to the New York Knicks for fellow All-Star Carmelo Anthony, Rivers blasted the possibility as "stupid" and indicated he has no interest in trading his 24-year-old star.
"If you're the Knicks or whoever, would you want Blake Griffin? I would," Rivers said, via ESPN. "So I don't see what the story is."
Rivers addressed the story just prior to the Clippers' 116-92 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Jan. 4. Earlier that afternoon Broussard claimed internal discussions were ongoing about a potential deal, though Los Angeles was said to be hesitant about the possibility. The two sides are also said to have not even discussed the deal with one another—just through internal channels.
The Knicks' preference remains re-signing Anthony, who will likely opt out of the last year of his contract and hit unrestricted free agency. New York can offer Anthony an additional year and about $30 million more than any other suitor, but the team's nightmare season opens up the potential that he could take a lesson from Dwight Howard and leave money on the table in search of a championship.
Internally the Knicks have still not given up on their efforts with Anthony. Marc Berman of the New York Post indicated that any Anthony-related rumor was premature and "extremely silly." With the option to sign-and-trade Carmelo over the summer, it's unlikely New York makes any rash decisions until it's clear he could bolt without the team receiving compensation.
Any Griffin trade seems unlikely at this point. Oft-criticized (unfairly) for his lack of improvement, Griffin is on pace for his best statistical season since his rookie year. He's averaging 22 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, while also making a concerted effort to shore up his deficiencies—especially on offense.
Griffin is shooting a career-high 70.5 percent from the free-throw line, including a 76.7 percent clip in December. He is also hitting 39.2 percent of his shots from 16-24 feet this season according to NBA.com, up nearly five percent from 2012-13. Though still imperfect on the defensive end, the team is negligibly more efficient when his versatile athleticism is on the floor.
Juxtaposed against Anthony, Griffin certainly seems like the better fit—both this season and going forward. Anthony's affinity for isolation play would make an awkward on-court fit with Chris Paul, through whom the entire Clippers' offensive ecosystem runs. Paul and Anthony are close friends, but with both men wanting to win championships before they retire, staying apart will probably be for the best.
Nonetheless, whatever trade discussions the Clippers had were likely put on hold with Paul's injury. The All-Star point guard went down with a separated shoulder against the Mavericks on Friday, Jan. 3, and Rivers indicated that he's expected to miss at least three to five weeks.
Who is the better player?
Acquiring a veteran point guard for a short-term fix will be priority No. 1 with Paul out. Darren Collison's entry into the starting lineup leaves the team without a reliable primary ball-handler coming off the bench. Maalik Wayns, the Clippers' only other point guard on the roster, has not played all season and could be cut by Jan. 10 to free up a roster spot.
Either way, stick a nail in whatever Griffin combinations you had playing in your head.
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