HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – While listening to Blake Griffin reflect on his Rookie of the Year season just minutes after he was presented with the T-Mobile Rookie of the Year award weeks ago in Los Angeles, it became clear that the Clippers’ big man was interested in so much more.
He wants to be more than just a dunker, more than just a highlight staple and much more than just one of the freshest and best pitchmen in all of sports (you’ve seen his commercials, you know he’s hilarious).
Already an All-Star, Griffin could have eased up this summer and basked in a little of the glow of his maiden campaign in the league, one that saw him average 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists en route to near universal acclaim as one of the brightest young stars in the professional sports world.
But instead he’s in the gym (check the video above), leading the Clippers’ young cast through workouts and trying to take the next step and become the true leader of an outfit in need of exactly that.
Griffin’s takeaway from his rookie season wasn’t that he’d arrived. Sure, he planted his flag with dominant stretches of play that we’ll admit were a bit of a surprise. We expected the excitement. We tuned in for the Clippers’ season opener, as did many others, to see if he would live up to the high-flying hype. And he did:
When we saw him at the Clippers’ practice facility during that ROY ceremony, though, it was while the playoffs were in full swing. It’s all Griffin could talk about, how having to watch the playoffs was eating away at him. That is what you want to hear from a young star on the rise. That’s the message his teammates and coaches need to hear from him. The fact that Griffin is backing up those words with his actions only confirms what we’ve suspected about him all along.
He wants more. He’s willing to work for it. And we’re all going to benefit from him taking that next step.
The Clippers have some serious ground to cover. Their 32-50 mark during Griffin’s rookie season was nowhere near playoff worthy in the Western Conference. But if their other youngsters — including recent Draft picks Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie — buy in, these Clippers could be a real factor in the near future.
That’s why we are buying Clippers’ stock right now, much like we’re doing with that Timberwolves’ stock that was discussed in this space yesterday and as we did two years ago with the Hang Time Grizzlies. As some of the older teams in the Western Conference begin to fade over the next few seasons, someone has to fill that void.
We tried to warn the world about those Grizzlies before they blew up on the big stage during the playoffs. We’re getting the same type of vibe from Griffin and the Clippers. Maybe not next season, but soon they’ll arrive, too. Very soon.