When Doc Rivers sat down with Blake Griffin to pitch him on why he should stay in Los Angeles, his message was simple.
“I just told him, ‘We need you,’ ” he said.
With the Clippers reintroducing Griffin on Wednesday at their practice facility after he officially signed a five-year, $175-million contract, that fact was abundantly clear. With Chris Paul no longer in the fold, all of the Clippers’ hopes and dreams rest on the shoulders of the 6-foot-10 forward. Though Griffin balked at calling Los Angeles “his team,” Rivers left no doubt that he expects Griffin to step into an even bigger leadership role this season.
“I don’t think guys care that much about who’s team it is, but it’s clear that Blake is the best player on the team,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”
Although Paul’s leadership style was famously more direct and in-your-face, Rivers said Griffin — who can be vocal — prefers to lead by example, simply demanding hard work from his teammates.
Though Griffin will remain in a familiar setting, he’ll be adjusting to a roster full of new names, including Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley. As the face of the franchise, Griffin will be expected to ensure that his team continues its recent success, which has included five straight 50-win seasons.
“It’s a challenge for all of us,” Rivers said. “But change is not bad. Everyone thinks change is bad. No, change is good. What we have done has been great. You look at our record and our wins, we’ve been great. But it’s not good enough. And we accept that.”
Griffin said he’s looking forward to playing on a team with so much versatility. One of the biggest reasons for his hasty free agency, he said, was to give the Clippers the chance to bring in players who would help the team succeed.
“We went out and put together probably the best roster that we could,” Griffin said. “We got the guys that we need in certain positions, guys that are very, very versatile, guys that impact the game on both ends of the floor in several different ways, so that to me is extremely exciting. The more versatility you have, the harder you are to guard, and I think that’s the recipe for winning in today’s NBA.”
Follow Tyler Blint-Welsh on Twitter @tylergabriel_