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Blake Griffin and the Historical Necessity of the Clippers Getting Rid of Their Best Player

January 31st, 2018 · No Comments · Basketball, Clippers, Lakers, NBA

If you live in France and get a batch of English-language programming on your TV deal … you can watch a ton of NBA games.

There are the ESPN nights, and the TNT nights and whoever has the weekends … and it feels like I can count on an NBA doubleheader at least four nights a week, each with a format rather like “best game in EST or CST early, best game in PST or MST late”.

And by “late” we mean early, here in France, with the second game beginning around 4:30 a.m., on this side of the Atlantic, finishing at 6:30, and I have seen a lot of that second game over the past month or two, a level of NBA-watching perhaps previously unknown in my life.

Which is all introduction to the point of today’s post:

Having studied the Clippers several times over the past month, I am convinced they were not going anywhere with Blake Griffin, who was getting 35 percent of their total payroll, and I am all in on their trading him to Detroit for three players and two draft picks.

The Clippers had a nice and sometimes exciting six-season run under the “Lob City” monicker.

See, Chris Paul would lob the ball near the bucket and Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan would hammer home dunks.

Fans responded to that. They turned up at Clippers games to root for the Clippers and not the visitor. No, really. That happened. Most of the time. (Unless it was the Celtics or LeBron or Curry on the other side.)

They won more than 60 percent of their games during that six-year run, and 57 games once and 56 twice — and led the Houston Rockets by 17 points with 14 minutes to play in what would have been a conference-finals-clinching Game 6 in 2015 before they blew all of it, and then some. (It finished Houston 109, shell-shocked Clippers 107.)

Since then, they have been slipping. Which became a landslide when Chris Paul insisted on leaving the club, bound for Houston, over the summer. The club also lost three-point specialist JJ Redick.

Griffin was a free agent, too, but a panicked Clippers club went all out on keeping him, offering him the “max” deal of five years and $173 million, embellished with the over-the-top playacting of his jersey being retired, circa 2029. Per SI: “They lowered the lights in the arena and raised his jersey to the rafters as a choir sang. The PA announcer said: ‘Tonight, we’re honoring a lifelong Clipper’.”

Well. That made the trade — to Detroit — a bit awkward, but as even Griffin conceded, “It’s a business.” He still gets paid.

It’s just that the Pistons will be paying him about $150 million of it, which is important for the Clippers.

They had decided — and after studying them this winter, I agree — that even with Blake and Jordan still around, and Lou Williams having a career year, the Clippers were unlikely to survive the first round of the playoffs — if they got there at all.

(The Clippers have Jerry West on their executive board now, and he is thought to be keen to have a future with more flexibility than lots and lots of Blake. Maybe even LeBron James, if it turns out he is keen on moving to Los Angeles, after all, but maybe not to the Lakers.)

Griffin had his usual significant injury, a sprained MCL that cost him 14 games, including most of December, and a notion making the rounds was that the injury prompted the Clippers to act. This will be his fourth consecutive season in succession Griffin, 29 in March, will play 67 games or fewer.

Perhaps at some point in December the idea of so much money committed to a player prone to breakdowns and whose athleticism can only be on the wane … well, the club (or West, anyway) got antsy.

And there went Blake on a private plane to Detroit, where snow is expected today.

The Clippers have two other players who might have some trade value — Jordan and Williams — and if they can get a prospect or two or some draft picks, they will be moved before the February 8 trade deadline, as well.

What the Clippers realized is that without Chris Paul their ceiling was going out in the first round of the playoffs. With more of that in the future, if they could stand it.

So they flipped the script.

Lob City had a nice run. Unfortunately, the Clippers were never able to take it mount a playoffs run of any significance.

But they were entertaining during a period when the Lakers were mostly awful, keeping the NBA relevant in the league’s second-biggest market.

L.A. fans will be hoping one or the other club gets the next few years right.





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