NBA

Blake Griffin On His First Years in the NBA: ‘I Wish I’d Handled It Differently’

Blake Griffin never quite went over the top as the superstar he had the potential to become. Two years into his time in Detroit, the Pistons big man is already the repeated subject of trade rumors. Griffin hasn’t quite found his identity outside of his prior team, the Clippers. And he seems to know it.

He helped provide LA’s second NBA franchise with its most successful stretch in team history. Yet fans felt the duo of Griffin and Chris Paul had the potential to be better than it was. In hindsight, Griffin agrees and recently opened up on the topic. His regrets connect directly to his time with the Clippers.

Blake Griffin’s lost rookie season

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Clippers fans were dismayed when team owner Steve Ballmer announced that he would break up Griffin and Paul to head in a different direction. In an interview with ESPN, he tentatively broached why he was willing to part with the now-dependable big man. He described Griffin as having “chemistry” issues with the team.

On the Armchair Expert Podcast, Griffin explained his perspective. It starts with his missing rookie season, due to an injury. He also speaks to the awkward state of the team before Ballmer got on board.

He was drafted on a team filled with older, end-of-career players, and unable to make his voice heard. His injury left him sidelined further, while the team was suddenly switched to an entirely different approach. He returned surrounded by younger players instead, while having little playing experience in the league himself.

“So I was sorta one of the older ones, at least that was on the court. And I sorta had my own way of leading them. And then the very next summer, we traded for a guy named Chris Paul, who’s one of the best point guards of all time,” Griffin said on the podcast. There was no foothold for a young player to build rapport in this swirl of constant change.

How Griffin and Chris Paul changed the Clippers’ narrative

Paul’s addition sent the team in a third new direction in Griffin’s short time there. “Because we got [Paul], now other older guys wanted to come to the team and play there,” Griffin elaborated in his Armchair Expert interview. “[…]our team got very old again. And I was sorta lost in that.”

For his part, Paul felt similarly. On the YouTube show All The Smoke, the current Oklahoma City Thunder point guard finally opened up on his time with Griffin. Without describing specific incidents, he alludes to there being some friction between the duo. Yet he greatly values their time playing together, and outright says he wishes he did more with the opportunity.

What Griffin regrets about his time in LA

Griffin still hasn’t quite found his stride. As both a media personality and as a big man in Detroit without a Paul type figure to play off of, he seems somewhat adrift. But these are issues slanted by the scale of his talent; he remains one of the best Clippers players in franchise history.

There are hints of broader issues with Griffin as a teammate. Ballmer’s comments, coming from a normally discreet owner, are telling. Paul’s praise being couched in terms of recurring conflict, another. Griffin never quite gets into that aspect of his time in L.A. But he does open up on his Armchair Expert appearance about how he started to shut down with the media.

“It was like, ‘Oh, he finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Man, amazing. Rookies aren’t doing that.’ And then it so quickly changed to, like, alright he’s gotta be doing this, this, and this now,” Griffin vented. “And I just heard so much negativity and so much hate that I sorta turned myself off, whether it was some reporters or some people. […]I just closed myself off, and looking back I wish I’d handled it differently.”

The “or some people” is as close to an admission as we’ll probably get. At least while Griffin is still active in the NBA. For now, he’s better off looking forward to his next run on the court. That will have to come next year, due to a knee injury that CBS Sports notes will likely keep him out for the entire 2020 season.