Lest his more public appearances led you to believe otherwise, Blake Griffin did not spend all summer modeling for magazine covers and performing slam poetry.
Sure, the Clippers forward posed for GQ and showed up at The Laugh Factory on Sunset Boulevard to deliver a pitch-perfect monologue on tearaway pants, his mouth guard and his bobblehead doll.
There was something else he apparently worked on: his jump shot.
The evidence unfolded throughout the Clippers’ exhibition opener Tuesday night at Staples Center, a thoroughly meaningless game except for the possible implications for their offense.
Griffin was easily the most prolific long-range shooter during the Clippers’ 112-94 loss to the Golden State Warriors. That’s saying a lot considering he shared the floor with sharpshooting teammates J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford as well as the Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Griffin had 24 points and 12 rebounds while making nine of 17 shots, including seven jumpers and his only three-point attempt, revealing he is a threat to score wherever he touches the ball in the half-court.
“It’s just the confidence, really,” Griffin said. “When I’m open, I’m going to shoot it because you just feel like it’s going in. But I’m not strictly a jump-shooter now. I have to do the things I used to do, the things that got me here.”
Griffin started with a flourish, making six of his first eight shots on the way to 14 points and four rebounds in the first nine minutes. He made a fadeaway jumper, a corner three-pointer and a couple of mid-range jumpers, his only misses during the stretch coming on a layup and a short running jumper.
“It gives us a great dimension,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said of Griffin’s improved range. “If he can do both of those things, post and take jump shots like he’s doing, just the spacing alone that he creates is good for us.”
It was not a flawless performance. Griffin picked up a technical foul in the second quarter for arguing a non-call after dunking an alley-oop pass from Chris Douglas-Roberts. Rivers then picked up his own technical for badgering the officials about it.
So much and so little had changed for the Clippers since their last appearance on their home court.
Their starting lineup remained intact but they switched owners, Steve Ballmer replacing the disgraced Donald Sterling after plunking down $2 billion for a franchise that is still seeking its first appearance in the Western Conference finals.
“Well, we have to finish,” Rivers said before the game. “For us, it’s just that simple. We didn’t finish games last year, we didn’t finish series last year, we lost games at home in the playoffs last year, so for us, we have to learn how to finish.”
Ballmer didn’t attend the game, missing a new lighting system that accentuates the court and giant player banners that feature the starters plus super sub Crawford and newcomer Spencer Hawes. Hawes finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
There was none of the chippiness that has characterized the rivalry between these teams in recent years. The Clippers ended the Warriors’ season in a taut seven-game playoff series in May, but this was the preseason.
“I expect an all-out fight tonight,” Golden State Coach Steve Kerr joked before the game. “I’d be disappointed if that didn’t happen.”
It didn’t, and nobody seemed to mind. The regular season will be here soon enough.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch