Blake Griffin’s redemption

PORTLAND, OR - OCTOBER 26: Blake Griffin
PORTLAND, OR - OCTOBER 26: Blake Griffin /

Following the Clippers’ win against the Portland Trailblazers on a buzzer-beating 3 from Blake Griffin, it seems like a good time to look back on the last few years and his return to MVP-caliber play.

Picture this, or put yourself in this situation: You’re an All-Star on a team that consistently finds ways to lose in the big moments. The weight of years of expectations and disappointments are looming heavily on your back. You continue to work your tail off to be the best player you can be, finding new ways to innovate your game to help your team win and prove doubters wrong. Then, in the biggest game of the year, you sustain a freak injury. Again.

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 24: Blake Griffin
LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 24: Blake Griffin /

Blake Griffin has lived through this and similar situations a few too many times during his Clipper tenure. He admitted as much to Shams Charania of The Vertical:

"“I’m not going to lie, after the toe injury last season, I cried. I’ve put myself in the best possible positions, through my daily training and my recovery processes and my offseason regimen and preparation. I break down when I have these freak injuries happen, when the hard work is basically thrown out. I feel I put myself in all the right positions – and then this happens.”"

Blake’s career could easily have gone in a different direction after any one of his major injuries. But he comes back every time through unquestionable work ethic and with a smile on his face when many of us have become despondent with the state of the basketball club, particularly in the last several years.

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 19: (R-L) Willie Reed
LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 19: (R-L) Willie Reed /

In the interview, Blake said that he couldn’t have left the Clippers without finishing the job. Finishing what he set out to do with this team in 2010. So what makes this year different?

Without guard Chris Paul, there is no question who’s team this is. There is also no questioning that there is a different feel about the Clippers. Blake acknowledged as much. If the start of the season is any indication, he is more than prepared to take the reigns and steer the Clipper ship night-in-night-out. He even organized an informal group ‘pre-training camp camp’. Leading by example, Blake has ensured that nobody really knows what this group’s ceiling is. There were those that suggested the Clippers’ playoff streak would end this year. If the first four games are any indication, the Clippers aren’t going anywhere without a fight.

The Clippers are fun again, due in no small part to the new leader. He has shown off his point-forward skills in blowout after blowout, with MVP chants ringing through Staples Center. But the MVP discussion got a whole lot more real for Griffin when he iced the win at the buzzer in Portland on Thursday night.

HONOLULU, HI – OCTOBER 4: Blake Griffin
HONOLULU, HI – OCTOBER 4: Blake Griffin /

In years passed, there’s little doubt that those shots would go to Chris Paul. In his first test in the clutch, when his team needed him to step up, he passed with flying colors.

So, is Blake Griffin back? Has he returned? Or did he never leave? One thing is for sure: Blake Griffin is here. Get used to it NBA.