Griffin, Clippers ready to compete for title
LOS ANGELES — Very good news Clippers fans: Blake Griffin is not only willing, he’s able to play.
“Yeah, absolutely,” answered Griffin when asked about his availability for training camp in October. “I could go right now if I had to.”
Reassuring words from the All-Star forward who too often seems to be recovering from some malady — receipts for his extremely aggressive style of play.
While working out with his Olympic teammates, Griffin tore cartilage in his left knee and had surgery July 16. Currently, he is ready to lead his team in its quest for an NBA title.
“I’m starting to do drills this week,” Griffin said. “You know, running, jumping, my normal movements, and I feel like I’m at 100 percent.”
Disappointed at not being able to play in the Olympics, Griffin devoted himself to improving his overall game the moment the doctors gave him the OK. He spent a great deal of his early rehab shooting from all over the court, an area which needed attention.
“I’m trying to become a more complete player,” said Griffin, who turned 23 last March. “I’m working on my shot, working on free throws, two things I’ve been able to work on a lot, even if I was stationary. I put in a lot of time, making sure I was doing the same thing every day.”
He also discussed the status of Chris Paul, who will miss most of training camp after surgery to repair a thumb injured during the Olympics in London. This will be the second straight camp CP3 will miss — last year because of the labor dispute — but Blake says he has no concerns.
“Chris is probably the least of my worries,” Griffin said. “He’s pretty much always ready to play. As soon as (the doctors) release him, he’s going to be ready to go.”
He and Griffin — along with the returning Chauncey Billups — will be leading a team with many new faces as the Clippers try to continue their renaissance of last season. Newcomers include Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, Jamal Crawford, Ronny Turiaf, Willie Green and Ryan Hollins. Griffin appeared to be genuinely excited talking about the direction in which he feels the Clippers organization is headed.
“I think we’ve got some great guys coming in,” he said, “and a lot of veteran leadership. At the same time, they’re guys who can really play and who know the game. I’m really looking forward to getting camp started and everybody getting together.
“We’re … taking the next step. Last year was kind of a building block, we laid the foundation, and this year we want to take a step forward with the pieces we acquired and the guys we have returning.”
Griffin went on to praise player personnel chief Gary Sacks, endorsing Sacks for the general manager’s post vacated when Neil Olshey left to join the Portland Trail Blazers front office. Coach Vinny Del Negro and team president Andy Roeser joined Sacks as a three-person committee that made the player moves, but Sacks is the one with true personnel experience.
“He’s made the best case he possibly could have,” Griffin said forcefully, “and if he doesn’t get the GM job I’ll be shocked — and definitely a little disappointed. I think he deserves it, and I think everybody else thinks he deserves it.
“We’re behind Gary 100 percent and hope it’s going to be him.”
No matter who the GM is, though, the Clippers will always fight the specter of the 16-time champion Lakers — at least until the Clips win their first ring. Griffin acknowledged the Lakers, saying that their offseason acquisitions of Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison, along with a returning Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, give the Clippers something to shoot for — and they’re not very far away.
“This is obviously a great place to play and guys want to come here,” Griffin said. “We’ve had guys toward the end of their careers — a guy like Grant Hill — that chose to play here. I think that says a lot. I think that says a lot about the direction we’re heading in.
“It’s exciting for us to be a part of something that has finally turned the corner.”