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NBA: Griffin just what Clippers need

By Jenni Carlson
The Oklahoman
Blake Griffin has made amazing things happen on the basketball court.
Still, this might be too much.
Save the Clippers?
This is a team that has been in the draft lottery more times than any other NBA franchise. Tuesday night was their 20th appearance, which means they’ve made the playoffs only four times since the lottery was started 24 years ago.
And now, this perennial lottery team has its sights set on Big Blake.
Los Angeles snagged the top pick in this year’s NBA Draft, and while team president Andy Roeser didn’t have a Clippers jersey with Griffin’s name stashed under his chair, he did have a No. 23 sewn into the lining of his suit jacket.
Oddly, Roeser was shy about showing off that part of his attire. A couple of reporters covering the draft lottery said he was trying to hide it, but an Associated Press scribe verified its existence.
Clippers PR personnel said that Roeser has had the jacket for years, that the numbers in the lining ó No. 1 and No. 23 ó refer to current Clipper players Baron Davis and Marcus Camby and that it was all a complete coincidence.
Gives a whole new meaning to cloak-and-dagger antics.
But seriously, it’s difficult to imagine anyone, even the Clippers, screwing up this pick. The former Oklahoma Sooner All-America is a slam-dunk selection for this franchise.
“We’re going to do our due diligence,” Roeser said during a national conference call after the lottery. “Then, we’re going to pick the best player in the draft.”
Note to the Clips: that’s spelled G-R-I-F-F-I-N.
“He’s a terrific athlete,” Roeser said. “He’s athletic. He’s strong. He’s a terrific person. And I think any franchise would be happy to have a player like Blake Griffin.”
The Clippers should be ecstatic about it.
They have spent all kinds of money on the likes of Zach Randolph, Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby, and yet, they desperately need help in the paint. Typical for this franchise.
Camby is aging. Kaman was hurt much of last season, playing only 31 games. Randolph was injured, too, playing only 39 games. With Griffin, the Clippers will have the ability to wheel and deal at least one or two of their big men.
Randolph might be one of the few bigs who will stay put. He’s the team’s only true power forward, and he can be a dominant one when he’s healthy and motivated, two areas that have been lacking at times. Being thin at that position means Griffin will be counted on from Day One.
That’s what he’s planning on.
“Hopefully, I can make a big impact,” said Griffin, not specifying teams but speaking generally during an ESPN interview. “I’m going to come in and try to learn as much as I can, and hopefully help the team out as many ways as I can.”
No doubt he can help this team, and it’s not just with points and rebounds and defense. This is a team in serious peril. Last season, it won 19 games, and really, things were much worse than that.
Injuries were a problem, but the issues were much deeper than that. There were questions about Clippers general manager and coach Mike Dunleavy. There was apathy in the arena. There was trouble in the locker room.
Randolph was suspended two games for punching Louis Amundson during a game in Phoenix, then was suspended two more games for a DUI. Ricky Davis was suspended five games for drug use.
These are guys who are supposed to be leaders, but instead, they were a constant source of instability and turmoil.
Truth be told, Griffin’s biggest contribution early on might be in the locker room. He’s a no-nonsense guy, a hard worker and a fiery competitor.
Is it a lot to ask of a twentysomething to be a star and a leader?
You bet, but Griffin is a special player who can do special things.
Still, saving the Clippers would be a tall task.
“I’m going to try to make the best out of whatever situation is presented,” Griffin said. “Just being presented the opportunity to go play in the NBA is something that’s been a dream for so long.”

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