Blake Griffin Wowing Opponents, Producing at an Historic Rookie Rate
Griffin was asked if a sign he's arrived as an NBA star is that his interviews are being carefully controlled.
Uh, not exactly.
"Well, the bus left me the last time,'' Griffin said as the Clippers concluded their shootaround in preparation for Friday night's 109-104 loss to Denver at the Pepsi Center.
Turns out there was a misunderstanding when the Clippers were in Denver for a Nov. 5 game. But Griffin said it was no big deal, and the bus came back to get him. So the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year did not have to fish around in his warm-up bag for cab fare.
Griffin might be missing buses and free throws this season (he's a 58.2 percent marksman from the line). But just about everything else has been going right for the 2009 No. 1 pick, who has returned after being unable to play last season due to a knee injury.
"He's rolling right now,'' said Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony.
Griffin sure is. Over the past seven games, he's averaged 28.0 points and 13.7 rebounds to raise his seasonal marks to 20.6 points and 11.7 rebounds.
If those statistics seem unfamiliar for an NBA rookie, it's because it's been more than a decade since one averaged 20 points and 10 boards in a season. Chicago's Elton Brand barely got there in 1999-2000, with averages of 20.1 and 10.0.
"It's definitely a goal,'' Griffin said of the 20-10 milestone. "It's something I'm working towards. At the same time, it doesn't mean anything if we're not winning games.''
The Clippers (4-16) haven't been doing much of that. But they did upset San Antonio 90-85 on Wednesday before playing Denver down to the wire.
And the Clippers did get center Chris Kaman back against the Nuggets after he had missed 11 straight games due to a sprained left ankle, and he totaled 10 points and six rebounds. With the return of Kaman, an All-Star last season, it remains to be seen if Griffin can keep up his white-hot streak.
"I think early on, with me playing with them, that probably took a little bit of his shots,'' Kaman said of Griffin, who had a much more pedestrian outing Friday with 17 points and 12 rebounds. "He's had to pick up the pace (when Kaman was out), which is what happens when anybody goes out.''
When Kaman was sidelined, Griffin had games of 44 and 35 points and of 18 and 17 rebounds. He's taken a slight lead over Washington point guard John Wall, averaging 17.4 points and 8.4 assists, for Rookie of the Year honors.
"Really, just the game has slowed down for me a little bit and I understand where my shots are coming from,'' Griffin said of his impressive recent play.
A good many of those shots have been dunks, prompting Nuggets coach George Karl to say Griffin "leads the league in dunks (and) might for the next 10 years.'' In fact, it sometimes looks like a dunk contest for Griffin.
With that in mind, Griffin said he wouldn't mind competing in the dunk event during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.
"If they ask me to do it, I'll do it,'' Griffin said.
No rookie has played in an NBA All-Star Game since Houston's Yao Ming in 2002-03, and he wasn't even a 20-10 guy that season. But Griffin didn't disagree when suggested it would be difficult to earn such a berth due to the Clippers' record.
"I'm not worried about it,'' he said. "Hopefully, I'll have a lot of years to make the All-Star Game. That'd be cool to play in the rookie game and maybe do the dunk contest. We'll see. It's going to be cool to have (the game) in L.A.''
NBA foes, though, might find it less cool to have to see Griffin for many more years.
"Any time you have that much explosiveness, you can almost do anything out there,'' Anthony said.
Due to his athleticism, Karl compares Griffin to Shawn Kemp, whom he coached from 1991-98 in Seattle. Karl also said Griffin has a "similar spin game'' to Kenyon Martin, whom he currently coaches.
"I just hope in the games against us, he doesn't make his jump shot,'' Karl said. "He might be undefendable if he makes jump shots.''
Griffin, though, has been missing less of those. He's also making sure missing buses is kept to a minimum.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson