Saturday, March 12, 2011, 11:02 p.m.
By Ryan OHalloran
He may still be just 21 years old and have only 67 games of NBA experience on his resume, but Blake Griffin already knows the post-game drill.
Ice on the knees.
Feet in the Gatorade cooler of bitterly cold water.
Translation: Griffin may be the NBAs top rookie, but hes learned wisely.
Griffin spoke with reporters for about 10 minutes after his Los Angeles Clippers routed the hometown Wizards 122-101 before an announced crowd of 20,278 at Verizon Center, proving to be just as impressive off the court as he was on it.
On a night where most of those fans came to watch Griffin show why the rim should be raised to 12 feet because of his thunderous dunks, they instead had to settle for an entire quarter of garbage time.
But what a first half.
Griffin scored all of his 26 points in the opening 24 minutes, showing offensive versatility even though he had only one dunk.
That was great; the first time I got to do that all year, he said of watching the final quarter. Guard Mo Williams and I were talking on the bench about how nice that was just to be able to put games away.
Just like Monday will be about Wizards fans watching Oklahoma Citys Kevin Durant and future home games featuring New Jerseys Deron Williams and Miamis Big Three, Saturday was about watching Griffin, who is a lock to win the leagues Rookie of the Year award and is the only player that is averaging at least 20 points, 12 rebounds and three assists.
The Clippers may be 26-41 and perennial also-rans in the NBA (and specifically the Western Conference) but Griffin has made the franchise appointment viewing.
Seemingly each time he touched the ball, even when he was 20 feet from the bucket and looking to get teammates involved, there were oohs and awes.
When he skied for a missed alley-oop.
When he displayed a great spin move to draw a foul.
When he caught Williams pass for a dunk (his NBA-leading 163rd of the season).
And especially when he played perfect defense against a surging John Wall and posted a clean block of his lay-up attempt.
Its been like that for a little while now, Griffin said. Were an exciting team to watch and we have a lot of guys who can get up and down and do some things. Weve drawn a little bit of a crowd as a team.
At one point of the first quarter, he was outscoring the Wizards 16-13.
Most thought the curse of Clippers had claimed another victim when Griffin missed all of last year with a knee injury. But he has burst onto the scene with a unique game that is played above the rim but is also capable of getting him to the stripe (10-of-11 against the Wizards).
Griffin made the Western Conference All-Star team, won the dunk contest by leaping over a car and has 54 double-doubles. And despite last years injury, he has played in all 67 games, averaging 39 minutes a night. His 29 minutes of work against the Wizards tied a season-low.
Mentally, Im not sure if I would use the term made me tougher but it made me go through something and concentrate on getting back and putting a lot of effort into that, Griffin said. It definitely makes me appreciate this because Im having a blast just being able to play each and every play, even through wins and losses, good games and bad games. I definitely cherish that.
Griffin isnt afraid to put in the work, either. Seventy-five minutes before tipoff, he was one of the few players on the floor, working with an assistant coach on a variety of jump shots free throw line, left elbow, both wings.
It was his range that was most impressive against the Wizards, particularly during one sequence late in the second quarter when he hit a 13-foot turnaround, fade away jumper.
Hes a pretty special guy, teammate DeAndre Jordan said. We knew he would come in and give us a lot of help but to be a rookie All-Star, were really proud of him.
Has Griffin been better than advertised?
Definitely, Jordan said. You have to double team him. If not, hell get 60. An amazing basketball player.
Diehard Wizards fans have hope because of Wall (25 points and eight assists) and Clippers supporters should have the same kind of optimism. Thats how good Griffin is and could be.
Contact Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org