Can Blake Griffin Rescue That Other L.A. Team?

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Can Blake Griffin Rescue That Other L.A. Team?
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Today was one of those really strange days that we sometimes have here in Los Angeles. Because when the most famous man in the entire world passes away at a young age (50 is still young in my eyes), it tends to snarl traffic for miles.

So, when the Clippers started off the 2009 NBA draft, almost no one in this basketball crazy town even seemed to notice what was going on.

I think that will change dramatically just as soon as Blake Griffin plays his first game for Ciudad's perennial NBA afterthought. Because Griffin has everything you could want in a tent-pole player.

I know that a lot of people still question Griffin's NBA potential. Some say he's not quite big enough and others worry he is injury prone.

I beg to differ on both accounts.

First of all, after watching pro basketball players over the years, I really don't understand why so many people focus strictly on height when talking about size. More teams have blown draft choices using their top pick on guys who are seven-footers than on "undersized" players like Charles Barkley, Ben Wallace and Elton Brand to name a few.

And Clippers fans know more about those mistakes than most teams, with Michael Olowokandi and Benoit Benjamin being prime examples.

As far as being injury prone, I really don't see it. Unlike Greg Oden who has missed entire seasons both in the pros and college, Griffin has missed very few games because of his injuries.

And unlike a lot of other players, his injuries have all been different; A sprained right knee, torn cartilage in the left, and a concussion.

I actually think Griffin has shown the kind of toughness and resiliency that a player needs to have to get through an 82-game NBA season. As Kobe Bryant once said when asked about an injury late in the season, "We all have injuries at this time of the year. You just have to play through them."

Basketball is about skill and heart in my opinion, and Griffin has both in large amounts.

Griffin has one other thing that I think is very underrated in today's NBA: nice touch around the basket and a good short-range jumper. If Dwight Howard had Griffin's jump shot the Larry O'Brian trophy might be residing in Florida as I write this article.

And Griffin is a great kid, with a wicked sense of humor. He actually took the time to work up a gag for an interview on Jim Rome's radio show earlier this year just because he wanted to give Romey something to talk about on his show.

The gag didn't quite work, but you had to give the kid credit for trying.

Those two things that will come in handy in a city like Los Angeles, which is both big and basketball crazy to boot. If he is even half as good as I believe he is, Griffin will have opportunities in La La Land that few other NBA rookies could even imagine.

It isn't going to be easy for Griffin to reach all of his NBA dreams as a Clipper. The team has some good young talent but also some noticeable holes—Especially in the middle.

Chris Kamen is looking more and more like a bust, and Marcus Camby doesn't look like the solution at center at this point in his career.

But with the addition of Griffin and holdover Zach Randoph, maybe they can squeeze one more year out of Camby and shop Kamen to see what they can get for him.

The other hole is at point guard. The Clippers have one of the best in Baron Davis, that is if the former hometown hero ever decides he wants to play.

Davis was injured much of last season, but even when healthy looked like he would like to be almost anywhere on the planet than in the Clippers red, white, and blue. But I think the addition of Griffin could brighten Baron's mood.

Learning to lose is a lot easier than learning how to win and the Clippers have been losers for a long time now. It will take time to rid the team of that mentality.

But I think this young man is special.

If he's as special as I think, L.A. might have two top teams in the near future. Instead of being home to one NBA champion and a team that looks like it should be playing in the D League.

A quick quiz for true basketball junkies.

Which city is home to the two NBA franchises with the most titles?

That would be Los Angeles. The L.A. Lakers, who, with 15 titles, have the most NBA titles of any franchise, followed by the Boston Celtics/San Diego and L.A. Clippers, who have 13 because the original Boston Celtics are actually the L.A. Clippers because the Celtics franchise was traded straight up for the Boston Braves in the NBA's dark ages of the '70s.

This is how it worked.

Because of the Boston Braves poor play in its final two years, along with rumors of the franchise relocating because of low season ticket sales, John Y. Brown met with the then-owner of the Celtics, Irv Levin, and negotiated a deal in which the owners would swap franchises, in which Brown would take control of the Celtics and Levin would get the Braves.

Levin was a California businessman, and wanted to own an NBA team in his native state. The deal was brokered by David Stern, the general counsel for the NBA who later became the league's commissioner in 1984.

Following what would be the final season in western New York, the NBA owners voted 21–1 to let the Braves relocate. As Irv Levin wanted, the Buffalo Braves moved to San Diego after the 1977–78 season, and became the San Diego Clippers.

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