Blake Griffin Can Rewrite His Reputation Against The Spurs


Blake Griffin joined the Los Angeles Clippers in 2010 and has created an endless reel of highlights ever since. What he hasn’t defined yet though, is his reputation, his genuine demeanour and how tough he actually is.

Griffin finishes at the basket as strong as anyone, but ask other players around the league and you’ll often hear entirely different portrayals of him.

Of course, everyone acknowledges the fact that Blake Griffin can dunk a basketball on a level that most people can barely dream of. Kids spend hours playing NBA 2K on their Xbox’s and still can’t perfect the ease at which Griffin can take flight. He just makes it look effortless.

Not just that, but he stands at 6’10” and about 255 lbs of pure muscle.

So how does Zach Randolph constantly see him as a target to attack? How has Blake received the reputation as “soft”? Or, more importantly, is there still a stigma surrounding Blake that he — and the Clippers themselves — are purely just more flash over substance?

They earned the 3rd seed in the infamously tough Western Conference this year. Meanwhile, Griffin earned his fifth trip to the All-Star game in five years and has announced himself as arguably the best power forward in the league, but for what?

He was credited as making the top five in the MVP voting last year (maybe even top three last year)  but everyone knows that he was never actually being considered when everyone just cares about the LeBron JamesKevin Durant race.

Like anyone else on that list below James and KD, Griffin was just another “candidate” so people could fill out a top ten list for their MVP articles.

This year, he hasn’t been in the same discussion. There’s simply been too much talent going on for a word to even be uttered about Blake. Which, for this year, is perfectly fair. Especially as he’s missed time with injury and hasn’t been playing at an MVP level again. That being said, there’s still a common perception surrounding Griffin that he’s soft, that he’s an easy target for opposing big men or just that the he’s “too nice”.

Just think of all the tussles that he’s had with Zach Randolph.

Regardless of the season that Blake put together last year — in which he averaged 24.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game — he’s starting to be considered as a player who may always post great numbers but never amount to a whole lot more. Many people would easily change their minds if he wound up on a team with LeBron James or Kevin Durant, yet with the Clippers, he’s not exactly gained that kind of reputation.

Mar 17, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) goes up for a shot against the Charlotte Hornets during the second quarter at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Be honest, though: do you consider Blake as more than a showman, a human highlight reel, or an elite scorer and passer?

Most likely, the answer is no. And don’t get me wrong, he still has more to prove.

He put the Clippers on his back while Paul missed 20 games during the latter part of last season, and still drove L.A. to finish with the best win record (57-25) in franchise history. By continuing to extend the range of his jump shot, improving his jump-hook and turnaround jumper in the post, and by increasing his rebounding again, Blake Griffin seemed to climb a few rungs up the ladder of NBA stardom.

Although, where has that got him now?

Beneath his exterior, as a player who is both ruthless as a finisher but seemingly timid in the accounts of others, there is a demeanour that is still unclear.

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He’s still a part of the theory that the Clippers will never contend in the Western Conference playoffs. Sure, they’ll be great in the regular season and they’ll have some nice showtime dunks against good old Tim Duncan, but what’s the point when they get bullied by the Memphis Grizzlies and lose 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs like they did back in 2012?

That’s just a common line of thought for most when it comes to the Clippers.

That changed last year, though, when they at least made it to the semi finals after defeating the Golden State Warriors in seven games. However, it was short lived. And yet again, the supposed “inevitable” happened when the Clippers lost in the second round to the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-2.

Consequently reinstating that the Clippers and Blake are talented, but not worthy of contention.

When it comes to his competition, Zach Randolph and Blake Griffin contests are always physical, and that aggression filters into the rest of their teams. As a result, Z-Bo has used that to depict Griffin as soft.

Even Chauncey Billups (an ex-teammate of Griffin) has said the following (per Yahoo):

"“I don’t agree that Blake Griffin is soft. But what I will say about Blake is that he’s maybe too nice of a guy. Because there’s been times in games where people take shots at Blake. And I tell him if that’s me, you’re going to have to take this two- or three-game suspension, and I’m going to punish somebody. He’s … too soft of a guy inside for him to be like, ‘All right, I’m just going to hurt somebody.’ He just won’t do it."

Near the end of this regular season, Griffin got into a confrontation with Kosta Koufos after the Memphis Grizzlies’ big man pulled him to the floor.

Blake was quick to stand up and clench his fists in anger. But was that a sign of actual aggression and will to react? Or was it just frustration?

Maybe he hasn’t rid himself of that perception and proved he can take the Clippers to a whole new level. In fact, that statement is completely accurate.

However, in this year’s playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs, he has a chance to rewrite that reputation all together.

Apr 13, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) raises his arms to the crowd in the second half of the game against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center. Clippers won 110-103. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It seems almost ludicrous that a man of Blake’s talent, who can embarrass anyone within a instant of his feet taking off from the floor, can be subject to such obvious perceptions of “softness”. Or just that there’s no more he can do.

Well tonight, he has the perfect opportunity to prove people wrong.

This series gives Griffin the best platform for him to rewrite his reputation; against the defending champions where he can showcase all of his talents by facing the best power forward of all time.

He’s averaged 25.3 points per game against the Spurs this year, and we’ll soon get an indication as to whether that will continue throughout the playoffs.

Whilst San Antonio may possess immense experience and leadership, Griffin has already announced that he’s embraced the “under-dog” role in this series. And his athleticism, speed in transition and scoring ability in the post can show up the weaknesses in the Spurs’ interior defense.

They may have Duncan, but with a questionable Tiago Splitter and a lack of reliable defenders in the post, the Big Fundamental can’t stop Griffin down-low for all 48 minutes. Not to mention Paul will be limited at times due to Kawhi Leonard prowling the perimeter, meaning this series is a chance for Blake to step up and illustrate an aggressive authority and a desire to completely take over. Which is something that we haven’t always seen from him before.

So if he doesn’t back down in what’s quite possibly the biggest series of his career, and goes at one of the greatest dynasties like he doesn’t even care, then he can rewrite his reputation and prove that he does have more to give and can take his career to new heights.

And that he isn’t just going to be the NBA’s “nice guy” any longer.

Next: Clippers-Spurs Playoff Preview: The Battle Of The Benches