The dust has finally settled. As Blake revisits the LA Clippers, let’s revisit the saga that was, and is, Blake Griffin and the Clippers.
With the first pick in the 2009 NBA draft, the LA Clippers select Blake Griffin. He missed his entire first season due to injury, which should’ve been foreshadowing to the Clippers, since his Clippers career would go on to be riddled with untimely injuries.
But his rookie season the following year was historic, as he’d go down as one of the greatest rookies of all time. He was a special NBA talent. His explosiveness alone was enough for him to go head to head with the league’s best players. And his budding playmaking skills were a tease of what was to develop in the future.
Beyond that, he revitalized the Clippers franchise. The team was in a rather vegetative state until Blake arrived. From then on, the Clippers realized that he’d be important to the franchise for a very, very long time.
Eyes were now on L.A. to watch how they’d supplement their new star. With a stroke of luck they managed to snatch Chris Paul out of the Lakers’ clutches, and CP3 was on board with it. Had Blake not been on the team, or not had the rookie season that he did, who knows what would’ve become of the Clippers.
But what did become of them was Lob City. For the first time in a long time (or ever, depending on who you ask), the Clippers were exciting again. General fans of the NBA found interest in this team. And with the Lakers conveniently on the decline, the Clippers finally became a destination for other players.
Here is where the “on again, off again” love story began. There were so many triumphs and trials. So many instances of him being good, but not good enough. So many developments and breakthroughs, but so many road blocks hinderances. And more than anything: So. Many. Injuries. The only consistency was inconsistency.
Blake became tattered and his explosiveness that once characterized his role as a Clipper began to wane. But Blake was always considered something that would always be around.
Throughout the years, he was often thrown into trade talks. But the Clippers never wavered. They remained loyal.
After the 2016-2017 season, the Clippers were worn out. They were sick and tired of being sick and tired. It became clear that the Lob City era would need to come to an end once and for all. No more big three. No more core four.
Perhaps it was because team chemistry was weak. There were always rumors that the team didn’t really get along.
Perhaps it was because they failed to keep up with the modern NBA. After all, the league went through a couple of phases over the past decade. And for the most part, the Clippers stuck with what they knew and kept running it back.
Whatever it was was enough to run away CP3. And as an honorable gesture, he had a gazillion new players sent our way. The Clippers now had no other choice but to adopt a new strategy.
Enter NEW LEADERSHIP and Players.
Blake Griffin was here to stay, though. He re-signed with the Clippers for 5 more years, a contract worth $171 million. This was the Clippers saying that he was here to stay. As long as he was steering the ship, we could navigate whatever turbulent waters were ahead.
He was a pioneer. Remember? Forget having the longevity of Dirk, Tim or Kobe. He was Martin Luther King Jr. to the Clippers. He was Abraham Lincoln. Albert Einstein.
This moment marked the culmination of Blake Griffin’s career as a Clipper.
Now came the 2017-2018 season, and Clippers executives began secretly plotting. This was a pivotal time for the team. At the time, the Clippers didn’t have much of an identity. If they were to make a move, now was the time.
Similar to eight years ago, Blake was on a Clippers team that was relatively desolate. But things were different now, and executives saw that. He was no longer that new, young, force to be reckoned with. Instead, he was approaching his thirties and was no longer threatening. Many only ever saw in him injury and inadequacy. Plus, the team just shoveled out a ton of money to him.
Blake became a liability to the Clippers vision of the future, so they traded him away on January 29, 2018. Once the remaining dominoes fell, the Clippers had successfully purged the Blake Griffin-era out of their team.
After nine years of Blake giving everything to the Clippers, and the Clippers giving everything to him, they discarded him. They cast aside their loyalty for what was best for the team in the future. Apparently, without any forewarning to Blake. And reportedly, he hasn’t spoken to any coaches or executives since before they broke the news to him.
It’s been 348 days since Blake Griffin was sent away. It’s the dawn of a new day for the Clippers. It’s a young, fresh, grittier, team. No egos, no baggage, no grievances. Their newfound cap flexibility will allow them to really do some shopping for a new superstar.
Above all else, the Clippers are playing well with the cards dealt (or rather, what was left after they dealt). All credit to Doc Rivers and this new team with a spirit the Lob City Clippers could never sustain.
But you can only help but wonder, what if? What if the Clippers gave Blake another chance?
Over in Detroit, the Pistons are treading water in the Eastern Conference playoff race. However, Blake is playing spectacularly. He hasn’t faded away the way people expected him to. He’s taken the reigns of a Pistons team he was unfamiliar with, and is doing an exceptional job.
His new and improved three point shot is an indication that he has successfully reinvented himself. He’s playing like the player Clippers fans always knew he could be.
With Blake’s return to L.A. about to happen, people are reconsidering: who won the trade, the Clippers or the Pistons?
Maybe the question we should be asking is: who winning the trade, the Clippers or Blake Griffin?
Today will be Blake’s “revenge game”. Two words that, a year ago, never would have been associated with Blake. Will he return to Staples Center with gratitude and nostalgia? Or will he return with scorn and a vengeance?