Clippers stay true to word and draft Blake Griffin
Taking Blake Griffin with the No. 1 selection in the NBA draft was the incredibly simple move for the Clippers, the painfully easy open jumper, if you will.
Now comes the hard part.
“It’s definitely going to take time, and it’s not all about me,” said Griffin on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
He was speaking minutes after the Clippers took him at No. 1, just the way General Manager and Coach Mike Dunleavy said they would do so back on the night of the draft lottery in May.
The 20-year-old from Oklahoma was accurate when he said it wasn’t all about him.
So, who else will it be about? And who won’t it be about?
Those will be the pressing questions in the giddy aftermath of Griffin’s big night. The addition of Griffin at power forward creates something of a traffic jam up front for the Clippers, and there are several options to ease the congestion.
Injury-riddled center Chris Kaman, limited to 31 games last season, has been considered most likely of the three incumbent Clippers big men to be getting a ticket out of town, and he apparently has been telling friends that he thinks he will be traded.
Forward-center Marcus Camby, because of his expiring and reasonable contract, will always be an attractive target when teams call the Clippers, though nothing appears serious on that front.
There is, however, a surprising amount of interest in forward Zach Randolph, massive contract and all, but the Clippers, at least for now, are maintaining they are reluctant to trade a player consistently capable of scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds per game.
“We’re in a very good position in that we have a lot of bigs that are very talented,” Dunleavy said. “Right now, what we’re just doing is trying to make a good basketball decision for us. We’re patient and if something comes up that would be a good opportunity, then we’ll look to take it.”
A move, if there is one, would likely occur later in the summer, not when the free agency kicks off next week on July 1. Typically, trade talk heats up again when teams begin summer leagues.
The Clippers, and Griffin, will be playing in Las Vegas in mid-July. Griffin, whose older brother Taylor was drafted by the Suns in the second round, was certainly sounding eager to get back to the day job after a dizzying stretch.
“This past couple of weeks I’ve been running around all over the place doing a lot of different things,” Blake Griffin said. “I really just want to get down to business and start working because that’s what I believe in and that’s what I’m about.”
Griffin, wearing a sharp purple shirt, smiled widely when his name was called by NBA Commissioner David Stern. He took a long walk up the stairs and a long winding corridor at the WaMu Theater in the Garden here and was greeted by well-wishers and blinding camera flashes, stopping to sign autographs and high-fiving fans.
“It was crazy,” he said. “I mean, when he [Stern] came out, I felt my heart starting to beat real fast. Going up there, it was a little overwhelming. Everybody is yelling. Everybody is cheering and stuff, and it was great.
“I’m just glad they didn’t boo me.”
Griffin did catch some good-natured grief for wearing purple.
“I think he looked clean,” said USC’s DeMar DeRozan, who went to the Raptors at No. 9. “You’d think he was getting drafted by the Lakers with that purple.”
Said Griffin: “It was accidental. I didn’t even think about it until right before the draft somebody brought it up to me and said, ‘Next time you wear purple, it’s going to be $5,000 fine.’ So I’ll be sure not to make that mistake again.”
After all, everyone is entitled to another chance. So much of Thursday felt like that for the Clippers and their prized rookie Griffin, who kept getting asked questions about their problematic history.
“I know what’s happened in the past,” Griffin said. “Everybody keeps telling me that, but you know, I’m not going to say, ‘OK, we haven’t had that many winning seasons. Why don’t we give up now?’ ”
Times staff writer Baxter Holmes contributed to this report.
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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:
Reactions from fans gathering at the ESPN Zone across from Staples Center to the selection of Blake Griffin as the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.
Darrell Bailey, a.k.a. Clipper Darrell, who wears a blue-and-red suit and is a mainstay at Clippers home games:
“We’ve all been down; now we’re going to rise up. Don’t worry about the past; worry about the future. I don’t believe in curses; that’s superstition.”
On getting Blake Griffin: “I think he can be the face of the franchise.”
Heidi Wang, from the South Bay; Clippers season-ticket holder since 1999-2000, who was spending Thursday with her husband and two children:
“It’s just wonderful that the Clippers got the first draft pick. Hopefully it’ll turn them around. The team just kind of went down [last season]. But hopefully they’ll come back up.”
Wesley Nakamura, an engineer from Cerritos, and a Clippers season-ticket holder since 2002 because Lakers tickets are too expensive. On how Griffin will do:
“Right now I think it’s just a curiosity factor. See how he’s going to look and play. . . . I just hope that he stays out of the bad luck. They’ve just had bad luck throughout their whole history.”
Jamial Clark, a Lakers fan:
“I don’t like the management for the Clippers. You’ve got a lot of talent. They have one person [Mike Dunleavy] trying to do too much. He should just be a general manager, not a coach. [The Clippers] are always second fiddle in L.A. to the Lakers. They have the opportunity to make the playoffs but not with the coach that they have.”
Evan Rosen, 12-year old from Santa Monica, a Clippers fan since he was seven when he went to his first game:
“I like the underdogs. It’s so annoying at school. I make sure everyone knows I’m a Clippers fan so that like, when they win the championship next year, I can get all in their faces. So I get made fun of a lot. But it’s fun. And now that we have Blake Griffin . . . he’s so athletic and, like, he can dunk over anybody . . . But the problem is that we already have a lot of forwards and centers so we’re going to have to trade some people. Most everybody is a Lakers fan. It’s like a Lakers city. I actually didn’t know there were this many Clippers fans.”
-- Compiled by Lauren Goldman