Clippers’ Blake Griffin walks line between rookie and veteran

Rookie or not a rookie?

He is considered an NBA newcomer, in a literal sense. But, really … not really.

Even the power forward himself, Blake Griffin, admits to an amused confusion, joking about his second rookie season with the Clippers. His first was cut short because of a stress fracture of his left kneecap, just before the regular season started last year.

“I’m lost,” he said on Monday, joking. “Sometimes I don’t really feel like a rookie. And then like yesterday, all the rookies were in the game and there were no spots on the bench, so I had to sit on the floor. You know what I mean? So it’s like I’m in a power struggle right now.


“I don’t know which way to go. But as far as playing, I feel, just sitting there and watching, I don’t feel like a rookie. Just because I kind of witnessed it firsthand.”

He joked about having a foot in both camps.

Of course, the left one is injured. This fact, understandably, has people (many of them Clippers fans) somewhat nervous after he tweaked his left ankle Saturday against the Utah Jazz and had to sit out Sunday’s exhibition game against Denver.

It also sounds as though Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro plans on taking the conservative route with Griffin for Tuesday night’s exhibition finale against Sacramento at Staples Center.

“Yeah, no question,” Del Negro said. “I want to see where he’s at and probably play it safe with Blake. I want to see how he feels. Maybe we’ll get him a few minutes or not. I just don’t know yet.”

Griffin said he would be able to play, “without a doubt,” if this were a regular-season game. He had support on his left ankle Monday for the practice session.

“It’s better today,” Griffin said. “Even without a shoe on, I can walk fine.”

The injury happened in the first quarter against the Jazz. He left the game in the fourth quarter when he went down hard and felt it in the ribs. That wasn’t the lingering issue, though.


“In the first quarter, on a rebound, I didn’t even jump, I just stepped across on Paul Millsap and just rolled [the ankle],” Griffin said. “That’s the worst thing. Some people jump up and come down wrong. But coming down on somebody’s ankle is the worst.”

The practice session Monday was more like a long tutorial than anything else, mostly a walk-through on offense and shooting drills.

“If we had gone five on five, 100%, I probably wouldn’t have gone,” Griffin said. “The fact is, there’s no urgency — it’s not like I have to be ready by tomorrow.”



Griffin is not the only injured Clipper. Forward Ryan Gomes is dealing with knee tendinitis, and center DeAndre Jordan has an injured right hamstring. Jordan worked out before practice Monday, and the Clippers wanted to see how his leg responded before making a lineup decision.

“I’d like to get into a rotation,” Del Negro said. “I wanted to a few days ago. But I don’t think we’re going to be able to do that, which is unfortunate.”