Blake Griffin continues to evolve in ways that have nothing to do with the increased range on his jumper, going from funny pitchman to deadpan poet to captivating essayist.
In a story published online Thursday, the Clippers star forward wrote about his uneasy existence under former team owner Donald Sterling and his excitement about playing for Sterling’s successor, Steve Ballmer.
“Steve is a good dude,” Griffin wrote in the 1,843-word piece for the Players’ Tribune, a new digital venture founded by former New York Yankee Derek Jeter. “He’s like a cool dad who gives you candy. Donald was like a weird uncle.”
Speaking with reporters at the Clippers’ practice facility, Griffin called the story his “farewell to that world” involving Sterling, who was stripped of his ownership this summer over disparaging remarks about black people.
“The idea behind it is [that] for so long, we kind of just went with what we had, and now we’ve got something great, and I don’t want that to be overlooked,” said Griffin, who wrote under the title of senior editor. “That’s the thing that should be really important.”
Griffin detailed Sterling’s vibe at one of the owner’s infamous “White Parties,” thrown at his Malibu mansion shortly after the Clippers made Griffin the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft. Sterling, the only attendee dressed in black, led Griffin by the hand as he introduced him in the same fashion to each guest, asking Griffin not only what he thought of Los Angeles but of the women in L.A.
“At this point, a lot of you are probably wondering why I didn’t pull my hand away, or why I didn’t just leave the party,” Griffin wrote. “For one, I was a 20-year-old kid from Oklahoma. But even if I had been 25, I don’t know if it would’ve been any different. The guy was my boss. Ask yourself, how would you react if your boss was doing the same thing to you?”
Griffin wrote he had known about Sterling’s past long before he watched the owner heckle Clippers guard Baron Davis in a game during Griffin’s rookie season. Griffin typed Sterling’s name into Google when he first figured the Clippers would draft him, triggering results that included “Donald Sterling is a racist.”
The rookie-to-be said he figured everyone knew about Sterling’s indiscretions and didn’t think about raising the issue when he arrived in L.A.
“Just picture me at the press conference my rookie year,” Griffin wrote. “ ‘Uh … hey, guys, before we talk about today’s game, did you happen to see that investigative report on my owner?’ ”
Griffin acknowledged he was conflicted when audio recordings were released last spring in which Sterling told a female companion he did not want her bringing black people to games at Staples Center. Many friends questioned how he could play for someone so hateful.
“My feeling, right or wrong, was that we should shut it all out and go out and play for our fans, our families, and for each other,” Griffin wrote. “For people to ever think we were playing for Donald Sterling is comical.”
Griffin was sitting in the trainer’s room next to teammate Chris Paul when Sterling’s interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper aired on television. Sterling told Cooper, almost defiantly, that his players loved him.
“C.P. and I looked at one another from across the room and just tried our best not to laugh,” Griffin wrote.
Ballmer has prompted a different kind of reaction since taking over the Clippers in August. Griffin wrote that he loved the new owner’s energy and his willingness to move team employees from temporary to permanent contracts while providing trainers with body scanning software that Sterling had refused to purchase.
“Top to bottom,” Griffin wrote, “everybody just appreciates being appreciated now.”
The Clippers’ second of three sets of back-to-back exhibition games starts Friday, when they play host to the Utah Jazz at Staples Center.
Coach Doc Rivers acknowledged it’s “not great scheduling” but said he didn’t mind because his players wouldn’t play a full slate of preseason games anyway. Rivers said he would rest some players Saturday when the Clippers play the Denver Nuggets at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
The back-to-back games are also good practice for the season-opening stretch in which the Clippers will play four games in five days as part of a more compacted schedule resulting from a weeklong All-Star break.