Working out for No. 1
The Lake Show and the Blake Show.
One was in El Segundo on Saturday, and the other followed later in the afternoon at Playa Vista. The former involved the Lakers, operating in the present, and seemingly the first team to be handed an NBA championship after one game in the Finals.
The latter, an open workout, represented a step into the future for the Clippers and Blake Griffin, the 6-foot-10 power forward they said they would take with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft this month.
These events were neatly paired to take advantage of the presence of the national media here for the NBA Finals, to show off the Clippers’ swank practice facility and to show off the national college player of the year from Oklahoma in front of 100-plus on- lookers, consisting of media, season-ticket holders and sponsors.
Usually, pre-draft workouts involving individual players are shrouded in mystery. Transparency had its benefits: Griffin displayed a quick first step, impressive athleticism, nifty ballhandling skills for a big man and an engaging, low-key sense of humor after his 63-minute session.
Of course, there’s the other side of transparency: Griffin’s misfiring jump shot. It was a byproduct, perhaps, of nerves but sure to be over-analyzed in this era of instant analysis.
The interesting thing about Griffin was that his displeasure with his shot happened to be among the first words he uttered once the cameras and tape recorders moved in to surround him.
“It felt all right. I wish I could have shot a little better,” he said. “I was a little tight out there. But overall it felt good. . . . I’d really like to just come in and fill a gap that they don’t have. They have a great cast of veterans and a great group of young guys. I think we can definitely turn it around and start winning.”
This was the first time Clippers General Manager and Coach Mike Dunleavy had seen Griffin play in person. Neil Olshey, Dunleavy’s assistant GM, had seen him four or five times in the last college season.
“There are certain things on his shot that he’ll need to work on to get better at, which he will do,” Dunleavy said. “Clearly, he shoots the ball well enough from the mid-range that he has be guarded.”
What was reinforced Saturday was that Griffin could also play small forward, another credible option after Al Thornton.
The glut of Clippers big men has led to speculation that one of them will be moved because there simply won’t be enough minutes to go around (“The math isn’t great,” Dunleavy said).
There have been continued questions about trading the pick. Dunleavy was asked whether the Clippers had told teams to quit calling.
“You can never say never about anything,” he said. “I don’t know who the players are in this league who may fit that category. Obviously, if the word ‘LeBron’ was spoken by anybody, the door would open, clearly.
“Most of the time a pick like this, 99.9% of the time you would keep it.”
This was also an opportunity to get to know Griffin off the court for the Clippers. Griffin mused that they took him to the best steak place in Los Angeles but he, no longer a meat eater, opted for the salmon. He also politely answered many questions by saying, “Sir.”
The meaning of going No. 1 on June 25 in the draft in New York had not quite hit Griffin.
“Not yet. It would mean a lot,” he said. “It’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was old enough to know what the NBA was. For it to be so close, it’s kind of surreal.”
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