Blake Griffin walked into Staples Center on Friday afternoon, his eyes quickly diverting to a video of the Clippers starting lineup that included him. A few seconds later, the video shifted to a museum in which it walked through different parts of his life during the seven years he wore No. 32 for the Clippers.
As soon as a smile crossed Griffin’s face upon entering the arena, one team executive who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter said the sense was that the power forward would return to the Clippers.
And Griffin will, agreeing to sign a maximum contract with the Clippers for five years and $175.74 million, according to an NBA official.
Griffin had spent about three hours talking with the team’s front-office brass in a room upstairs at Staples Center before he came downstairs to see teammates and other team officials.
Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers, executive vice president Lawrence Frank and consultant Jerry West made the strong pitch to Griffin during the long session.
After that was over, Griffin strolled down the arena floor with his two kids, son Ford Cameron-Griffin and daughter Finley Elaine Griffin, and his girlfriend, Brynn Cameron.
The full-court press on Griffin continued, drawing that smile from him and causing others in the organization to say to each other, “Blake is in.”
Griffin’s teammates Jamal Crawford, DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Johnson, Patrick Beverley and Sam Dekker also were at Staples Center making sure he didn’t leave.
“This huge, this is absolutely huge,” Crawford told The Times after he had landed back in his hometown of Seattle from Los Angeles. “Blake is one of the very best players in the NBA. And L.A. is home for him. When I heard, I felt like I was dreaming. It’s just an unbelievable feeling.”
Griffin and his family stuck around to watch the production on the jumbo screen at Staples Center.
“It was not cheap,” one Clippers executive said. “It was a very expensive production.”
Griffin technically couldn’t agree to the deal until the NBA’s free-agency period opened at 9:01 PdT Friday night, but the Clippers were allowed to talk with the power forward earlier in the day because he had spent the past seven years on the team.
Griffin canceled visits with the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets.
Griffin, like all free agents, can’t sign his deal until the NBA moratorium is lifted on July 6 at 9 a.m. PDT.
For the Clippers, getting Griffin back in the fold after losing Chris Paul was significant.
Paul had forced his way to Houston, getting traded to the Rockets on Wednesday for Beverley, Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams, a first-round draft pick in 2018 and three other players.
The Clippers couldn’t afford to lose Griffin.
Whatever concerns the Clippers had about Griffin’s big toe surgery in May didn’t stop L.A. from giving him the maximum deal.
He is in the recovery process and might not be able to play in a regular-season game until November or possibly December.
But the Clippers still were willing to pay Griffin $30.3 million for next season, $32.724 million for the 2018-19 season, $35.148 million for 2019-2020, $37.572 million for 2020-2021 and $39,996 million in the final season.
Before Griffin was injured in Game 3 of the Western Conference first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz, he was averaging 20.3 points and 6.0 rebounds.
He played in only 61 regular-season games, missing 18 because of right knee surgery. But in the games he played, Griffin averaged a team-leading 21.6 points and was second in rebounds (8.1) and assists (4.9).
He extended his shooting range, making 33.6% of his three-pointers last season, an addition to his power game that was starting to mold Griffin into a more versatile player.
7 p.m.: This article has been updated with Blake Griffin’s acceptance of the Clippers’ offer.
This article was originally published at 6:45 p.m.