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Charley Rosen's Close Look: Blake Griffin Exposed by Spurs

Nov 11, 2010 – 10:43 AM
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Charley Rosen

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Blake GriffinThe two most heralded newcomers to the NBA are Blake Griffin and John Wall, the latter succeeding the former as the most recent first overall draft picks. Wall, of course, is fresh off a stunning triple-double outing in leading the Wizards over the Rockets. At the same time, Griffin was less than ordinary in the Clippers' 107-95 loss against the savvy Spurs.

Griffin certainly did have several positive plays in San Antonio:

A tight left-to-right spin from the left box early in the game that culminated in his dropping a deft jump hook.

Being victimized by a fumbled pass and a blocked shot, but showing some moxie when he finally snatched the ball and executed a powerhouse dunk in a crowd.

A turn-face-and-go against DeJaun Blair that culminated in an assertive layup.

Catching and then slamming a lob pass in the waning minutes of the game.

Making several elementary out-passes when he was double-teamed. The ensuing jumpers knocked down by various teammates accounted for Griffin's three assists.

Charley Rosen's Close Look

A lifelong student of the game, Charley Rosen has played, coached and written about basketball for over half a century.

With 15 books about basketball and a longtime column at FOX Sports to his credit, Rosen is bringing his talents to NBA FanHouse for a weekly look at some of the NBA's most intriguing matchups.

Nov. 4: Analyzing Boston's OT Win Over Bucks
Half of his eight total rebounds were snared in heavy traffic.

He drew a charge against Richard Jefferson but didn't get the call because of the rookie-veteran matchup. Later the whistle went his way when Blair, a second-year player, blasted into him.

Griffin alertly came up behind Tim Duncan, reached high and grabbed a share of the rock, and then won the forthcoming jumpball.

Maintained excellent position when Tiago Splitter attempted to score against him in the low-post, thereby forcing Splitter into a turnover.

Rescued the ball in a wild melee in the shadow of the basket and was fouled.

Was relatively quick up and down the court.

Showed impressive upper-body strength and adhesive hands.

Unfortunately, Griffin had an even greater number of minus moments:

He shot only 5-of-18, and his misses included five board-banging bricks and one jumper that hit the glass but not the hoop. His only successful jumper circled the entire rim before twisting through the net. All of his jays were bank shots with nary a one demonstrating any kind of a touch.

Griffin initiated virtually all of his post-up moves by dribbling in place before spinning or drop-stepping. By not forcing his defender to move his feet (and only then executing some kind of reversal sequence), Griffin's every pivotal shot was unloosed under unnecessarily heavy pressure.

Blake GriffinHe suffered a total of 3 blocked shots.

He was so eager to slip screens and dive straight into the pivot that he made solid contact on only one solitary screen.

Three times incoming passes were tipped away when Griffin settled into the pivot because he failed to meet the ball.

Several times when he made an effective defensive-showing on the nether side of a screen/roll, Griffin neglected to get back into the play and merely wandered in no-defense land.

On two occasions, he was so intent on guarding his man that he had his back to the ball and didn't see Tony Parker drive right past him on his way to the basket.

While Griffin's upper body and legs are strong, his core lacked the power to avoid being routinely shoved out of both advantageous rebounding and post-up position. That's precisely how Blair bumped his way into a put-back.

Yes, Griffin has prime-time elevation, but he's also quite slow off his feet. As a result, he was constantly beaten to the top of potential rebounds.

His defensive shortcomings were not completely abused only because neither Blair nor Antonio McDyess challenged him -- and because the Clippers played lots of zone.

Give the young Clippers credit for making the Spurs sweat even though three starters were down and out -- Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, and Chris Kaman. The measure of the survivors' general unselfishness is the 20 assists they recorded -- only one less than the Spurs' total. The Clips converted 7-of-10 bonus shots and an admirable 46.5 percent from the field, but couldn't get to the charity stripe, and failed to curtail San Antonio's ball-penetration.

As for Griffin: His defense will improve as the season unfolds, and his intensity will pay more immediate dividends. But his foul shot (1-of-2) is much too snappish, and his jumpers are hard-rock disasters. Perhaps an increasing anticipation of how, why and where any given play develops will allow him to get off the floorboards in more of a hurry.

Still, besides his afflicted jump shot, the worst aspect of his young game thus far in this young season is Griffin's almost total lack of grace. Every move seems studied and accomplished with total force and exertion. Unlike John Wall, nothing that Griffin does is smooth and/or slick.

For sure, Blake Griffin will be a much better player come April. Yet despite all the media hype and ballyhoo, it's hard to imagine Griffin being even remotely compared to Karl Malone in the foreseeable future.
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