Former LA Clippers star Blake Griffin made an appearance on “The Old Man and the Three” podcast (hosted by his former teammate JJ Redick) on Friday, and spoke about his old team’s struggles to win an NBA championship despite their undeniable talent.
Griffin was candid about the team’s failures, particularly in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, in which the Clippers had commanding series leads in the Conference Semifinals before collapsing to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets respectively. He denied the notion that internal conflict within the team was the reason these collapses occurred, instead pointing to something more psychological.
“‘15 was just a complete mental breakdown,” Griffin said. “I don’t think pettiness is why we lost in the playoffs, especially not that year. Or the year before, when we lost to Oklahoma City. Pettiness didn’t lose those seasons for us.”
Both he and Redick agreed that their window to win a title was limited to those two years, given their terrible injury luck the following seasons and the oncoming wave of Warriors dominance in the Western Conference. Still, he believes locker room issues (Griffin famously punched a Clippers equipment manager back in 2016) were not as glaring as they seemed.
“I’ve said this to people when they always ask me about the Clippers,” Griffin continued. “I am in the camp where it wasn’t quite as bad as people try to make it out to be...maybe towards the end, maybe like when some other things happened. That’s not the reason we didn’t win a championship. Our two chances to win a championship were those two years. After that, the Warriors and LeBron, they were just going back and forth and that was crazy.”
Redick, who played in LA for four seasons, largely concurred with Griffin’s sentiments. He also astutely pointed out a complicating factor from the 2013-14 season that went beyond basketball.
“There were some things that happened in those playoff runs, in ‘14 and in ‘15, that were just a little bit of a breakdown,” Redick said. “Which is shocking, considering what we had to go through in the first round in ‘14 with the Golden State series and having to deal with the [Donald] Sterling stuff.”
Sterling, then owner of the Clippers, was revealed to be a racist bigot via a leaked recording of a conversation with his mistress. The Clippers were unsure if they would even suit up to play in their first postseason game against the Warriors after the recording was leaked. They would eventually play, and go on to win a hard-fought series in seven games.
Redick seemed to be implying that it was odd that the team could deal with such organizational turmoil in the first round and still manage to win, and yet they somehow found a way to fall apart in the second round against the Kevin Durant-led Thunder.
Whether or not there was locker room animosity or pettiness during the Lob City era, it seems to have been forgotten, at least between these two former teammates. Griffin and Redick shared a cordial, light-hearted conversation in which both acknowledged their past mistakes (Griffin even admitted he can be a bit of a nag towards referees).