Court Vision: Blake Griffin wrestles opponents and battles reputation
• We can debate for hours exactly how good Blake Griffin is, but one thing about the All-Star power forward is abundantly clear: He has a target on his back like few others in the league. Paul Flannery touched on the way opponents look to rough up Griffin in his always excellent Sunday Shootaround, with particular insight from Clippers coach Doc Rivers:
Never mind all that because the whole Blake Griffin Thing is on full boil. There are various theories that have been around for years. Opponents don’t like his game, his commercials or his tendency to exaggerate contact. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that all of this is coming to a head at the exact moment when Griffin is playing the best basketball of his career.
"It’s amazing. I don’t get it. I honestly don’t," Clippers coach Doc Rivers told me in his office before the Warriors game. "He had that soft label. People come in with that label and labels are hard to get rid of. They really are. They hear it and guys come in, they play him and they hear that label and the next thing they know they’re getting their ass kicked. Physically, by Blake. Speedwise, by Blake. All over the floor. He’s making jumpers, he’s posting them up, he’s more physical than they thought and I think they take it personally. I ain’t going to let this happen to me. Not this guy. What they don’t realize is, he ain’t that guy. He ain’t what they think he is."
• Andrew Han penned a smart companion piece over at TrueHoop, which considers (among other things) Griffin's role in establishing the Clippers' team identity.
• I'm all for being a supportive teammate, but I'll have to draw the line at Jerryd Bayless describing fellow Celtic Jeff Green as "the ultimate scorer."
• Royce Young on Thunder guard Jeremy Lamb, who has played a combined 21 minutes over the past three games:
... Jeremy Lamb needs minutes. Blah blah blah Scott Brooks about there are only so many minutes to go around. Don’t care. He checked in late in the first quarter, playing five minutes, and then he sat until mop-up time in the fourth quarter. Why? The Thunder’s bench was so good and so explosive early in the season. The addition of [Caron]Butler is solid, and [Russell] Westbrook being out [against Dallas on Sunday] offset the rotations as Jackson had to start, but a playmaking shooter/scorer like Lamb needs time on the floor. I get the idea of Andre Roberson to play defense first, but I don’t like him playing 24 minutes to Lamb’s 11. The better player needs to play.
• Even with DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas playing the best basketball of their respective careers, the Kings are miles removed from the playoff bubble. What's worse: The road to the postseason won't get any easier soon, with so many conference also-rans poised to take steps forward next year.
(On a related note: The Cavs and Bulls will also be very interested to see what becomes of the Kings over the next few seasons, seeing as Cleveland traded a protected Sacramento pick to Chicago as a component of the Andrew Bynum deal. In doing so, the Cavs essentially bet on the fact that the Kings will be crummy through 2017, at which point the protected first rounder would default to a second rounder instead.)
• In riffing on Jim Buss' role and the state of the Lakers in general, Darius Soriano of Forum Blue and Gold pitched the kind of patience that fans (and Kobe Bryant, for that matter) would be wise to adopt:
It takes time for a draft pick -- especially an 18- to 19-year-old kid (whose name isn’t LeBron, Shaq, Duncan, Alcindor, Wilt, etc.) to prove he’s ready to play at a high level night in and night out and shift a team’s trajectory upward almost instantaneously. We won’t know about Kobe’s progress and how he’ll hold up over the course of a rigorous NBA campaign until several months into next season. Free agent signings can always be spun positively on July 1st, but the act of them living up to (or surpassing) the value of their contract comes over the long haul.
This is how winners are built. I understand fans have little patience for stuff like this, but in many ways there’s no choice this time. This isn’t like when Phil Jackson took over the team that Del Harris couldn’t get over the hump. And it definitely isn’t like the team Pat Riley took over, a group that won a championship just a couple of years earlier. There is no ready made roster here that is one piece away. The Lakers are rebuilding and need the time it takes to forge a foundation that a contending team can rest on for years to come.
• A quick look at the many statistical superlatives for Anthony Davis' season. • Sixers GM Sam Hinkie is either a stand-up guy or really wanted to make sure that Evan Turner found his way to Indianapolis.