There are few events more worthless than NBA regular-season games. Some off the top of my head: the fourth day of second grade, the anniversary of the first day a newspaper ran Marmaduke, Arbor Day, when Lady Gaga says something, a cat’s birthday, the State of the Union address, so on and so forth.
When it comes to sports, if there is anything more worthless than an NBA regular season game, it is usually a Los Angeles Clippers regular season game, which is a thing that I realize is redundant. I went to Staples Center on Saturday to see the Clippers, by choice. Specifically, I went to see Blake Griffin. I live in Los Angeles and love sports. Griffin plays in Los Angeles. I felt duty-bound to watch the NBA’s top rookie play live and report back to you.
This is my report.
To start, I had great seats. I watched the game from the best spot in Staples Center — the BET suite. A thank you to my brother and his connections at BET for setting this up. I could have requested a press pass, but press row is the worst place to watch a game. It is filled with alcoholics, misanthropes, divorcees and TV personalities, a good group of people to drink with, but a terrible group of people with whom to enjoy a live sporting event. Besides, had I sat on press row, I would have been denied the pleasure of watching the game surrounded by black people, which is absolutely the best way to watch an NBA game.
I stayed for the entire thing, a 113-109 Clippers win over the Golden State Warriors. Griffin was outstanding. I know you know this, but he’s not outstanding for the reasons you think. What makes him worth seeing in person is something you have to watch a full game to understand. It goes beyond highlight-reel dunks. Blake Griffin plays with the enthusiasm of a high school sophomore who just got called up to varsity. This is as opposed to the traditional Clipper rookie, who plays with the actual talent of a high school sophomore.
David Lassen, who covers the Clippers for the Riverside Press-Enterprise, told me that Griffin, while very cooperative with the media, is not always the most quotable player. But he does have a sense of humor, which is more likely to come out when he’s in a small group. He is currently attempting to reveal more of himself to fans with videos such as this one, a trick basketball shot round-up with teammate DeAndre Jordan.
Griffin finished the game with 30 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists. The arena buzzed throughout the fourth quarter every time he passed the ball, in hopes that he would get a triple-double. He didn’t. No one minded. Not even the guy in our suite who at halftime bought an $89 Griffin home white jersey. He and the rest of Staples Center knew they were watching something special, the first moments of a career that could end with Griffin in the Hall of Fame, provided he does not re-injure the knee that caused him to miss all of last season. Considering he’s a Clipper, and the Clippers have vowed to make him a Clipper for life, that’s a big if.
There are three memories I will take from this game. One was this fast break alley-oop dunk from Eric Bledsoe to Griffin. Plays like this are why, when asked about his team’s defensive game plan against Griffin, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “Don’t get dunked on.” Griffin leads the NBA in dunks.
Not surprisingly, Griffin will be competing in the Slam Dunk contest during the All-Star weekend, which is here in Los Angeles. With the home crowd behind him, he will be a favorite to win.
The second standout moment of the game: with the score tied at 105 late in the fourth quarter, and two seconds left on the shot clock, Griffin made a 28-foot three-pointer to put the Clippers ahead for good. It was the loudest I have ever heard the Staples Center in my seven years of watching games there.
The clutch shot drew attention to an unusual stat. Griffin is 6-for-10 on three-pointers this season, which is unusual for a big man, because most of them can’t shoot from the outside, and the ones who are decent at it try way too often.
The third memory I will take with me is the halftime show. It involved women dancing slowly while wearing approximately 75 layers of brightly-colored dresses. I am sure many in the audience found it lovely, and the dancers and band certainly looked good at what they do, but, damn it, I come to one to two Clippers games a year, and when I’m there I expect stunt bike tricks or slam dunks involving trampolines or $100,000 half-court shot pranks.
If you have the chance, go watch Griffin play. As the Clippers get healthier, he will only get better than his 22.8 points, 12.9 rebounds per game. If he stays healthy, he is a lock for rookie-of-the-year and should be chosen for the All-Star game.
After the game, as a packed house streamed out of Staples Center, my brother pointed out how far Griffin and the Clippers still have to go. After Lakers games, police shut down 11th Street in front of the arena for pedestrian foot traffic. Clippers fans, on the other hand, are left to get mowed down by inattentive downtown motorists. We’ll know Griffin and the Clippers have arrived when Clippers fans get police protection too, same as fans of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
(Joe Donatelli is a senior editor at Break Media who writes and edits for Made Man. He has written about The Day His Bachelorhood Ended, Attending His First Mansion Party and Taking A Dip In A Sensory Deprivation Tank. You can contact him at jdonatelli(at)breakmedia.com.)