NBA Opening Week: Blake Griffin Makes Los Angeles Clippers Fun Team To Watch
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Blake Griffin dazzled in his Clippers debut Wednesday (and in spurts against the Warriors last night), and has brought a glimmer of hope to a downtrodden L.A. franchise that has reached the playoffs only once in the past 13 seasons.
If Griffin's first points were any indication of how his season will go (watch the video posted below), then the Rookie of the Year award will be only the first of many accolades that he will receive by year's end.
Although mired in foul trouble for most of last night, Griffin still ended up with his second career double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) in as many games in a Clippers loss'. If consistently racking up double-doubles is only the beginning for him, then what could we possibly expect from No. 35 in three years?
Despite his repertoire on offense, the 2009 No. 1 overall pick has rarely been featured on the offensive end, scoring only because he's made the most of his opportunities in transition and off the glass, evidenced by his league-leading 15 offensive rebounds.
While his numbers on the glass may be skewed because of a plethora of chances (L.A. has shot only 39.5 percent from the field this season), he still dominated a Trail Blazers team that held opponents to a league-low 38.1 rebounds per game last season and trots out frontcourt with an average height of 6'10", not to mention the presence of rebounding menace Marcus Camby starting at center.
Whether he was ripping down one-handed rebounds or casually running the break at every chance (and I mean EVERY chance), Griffin has always looked in control, playing at an almost lazy speed in his first two games.
With an offensive pace and game that resembles Tracy McGrady with less shooting range and more brute strength on the boards (don't forget T-Mac averaged seven rebounds twice early in his career), the 6'10" power forward plays like an in-his-prime Shaun Alexander on a basketball court: smooth, efficient and wildly effective.
In his limited work in the post against Golden State and Portland, the Oklahoma alum displayed quick feet and a fluid, sound approach with his back to the basket. His ability to stay calm and collected close to the basket is a rare trait for any NBA big man, not to mention a rookie power forward.
Griffin will surely be a catalyst for the Clippers on both offense and defense throughout the year, but he and Eric Gordon (who is averaging 20.5 points in the first two games) will need the other L.A. starters (mainly Baron Davis and Chris Kaman) to combine for more than the 18 points they scored in the season opener.
With a dearth of elite power forwards in the NBA, Griffin has a chance to become a prototype for the new wave of talented big men yet to hit the league. His combination of size, athleticism and touch has Clipper Nation praising the basketball Gods, while they secretly pray that Griffin's broken left kneecap was just an early speed bump in what will be an otherwise illustrious, injury-free career.
For now, the Clippers will look to get Griffin involved more offensively, especially on the pick-and-roll, and hope that his energy and calming influence rubs off on a talented, but enigmatic Clipper team with playoff aspirations.
Jesse Paguaga is an intern for Bleacher Report. He is a regular contributor to Baseball Digest in the BD Baseball Fantasy Department. Jesse writes for Gotham Baseball, along with Gotham Hoops and Gotham Gridiron. He can be reached at Paguaga@usc.edu and can be found on Facebook and on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/@jpags77.
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