L.A. may not be a Clippers town, but almost everywhere you look something reminds you of them.
There’s Doc Rivers on CNN, detailing the travails of coaching a team owned by Donald Sterling.
There’s star playmaker Chris Paul in a suit, introducing President Obama during an initiative to assist young men of color.
There’s new owner Steve Ballmer on an endless TV highlight loop, yelling, “HARD-CORE! HARD-CORE!”
Now comes a smiling Blake Griffin on the October cover of GQ. The All-Star forward wears a modish blue suit with a retro Clippers jersey underneath to tout the magazine’s first-ever “Age Issue,” which hits newsstands in L.A. and New York on Tuesday. There is also an accompanying photo slideshow.
Griffin touches on a variety of topics in the cover story, including opting for a trophy case room over a wine cellar in his new home — give him time, he’s only 25 — his interactions with Sterling and the Lakers-Clippers rivalry that will resume in a designated Lakers home game on Halloween.
Griffin gets that no matter how many times the Clippers beat the Lakers inside Staples Center, it’s still 16-0 in favor of the purple and gold because of the Lakers’ championship pedigree.
“For a lot of people,” Griffin says, “it’s about history. And nothing we can ever do will ever take away from their history. They’ve had unbelievable success as a franchise. And I think in this current day, we’re the better team. I do.
“But, I mean, if you ask anybody that, they’re gonna say that, you know, so that’s not a real controversial statement.”
Griffin’s take on Sterling also probably doesn’t qualify as arguable. Griffin said he first learned of Sterling’s scandalous exploits when he Googled the owner upon learning the Clippers were likely to select him with the top pick of the 2009 draft.
“The first thing that pops up is, ‘Donald Sterling racist,’ ” Griffin said. “And I was like, ‘Whoa!’ So obviously I explored that, read a whole bunch of articles, read the deposition at one of his court cases.”
What Griffin said he found was a confused Sterling describing one of his sexual encounters in the back of a limousine in response to a question about his handwriting during a 2003 sexual harassment lawsuit.
Griffin acknowledged that Sterling brought female companions into the Clippers’ locker room but said they did not venture into the shower area.
“One year [Sterling] came in and led a ‘hip hip hooray’ chant, and he held my arm up in the air,” Griffin said. “Then he went to another teammate and did the same thing. Guys just started scattering as fast as possible.”
Griffin said he did not realize the extent of the fallout that would ensue in April after the website TMZ released an audio recording of Sterling telling a female friend that he did not want her bringing black friends to games at Staples Center.
“Even after I listened to it,” Griffin said of the recording, “I didn’t realize how big it was gonna become. Not that I didn’t think it was bad. You know, if you have no idea — you just kind of maybe know that Donald Sterling owns the team, you know nothing about him, and you hear all these things, you’re like, ‘Wow, that is crazy! That’s nuts!’
“But for me, and for a lot of people within the program, [they] are just kind of like — yeah, he’s said some unfortunate things before. He said them again.”
Griffin was not among the players who wanted to make a visible statement in response to Sterling’s remarks during the Clippers’ next playoff game against the Golden State Warriors. Players turned their warmups inside-out to obscure the team logo and discarded them in a pile near midcourt.
“I was one of the guys — and I don’t know, I might catch flak for this — I was one of the guys who didn’t want to do anything,” Griffin said. “I didn’t want to give this one incident the power that it doesn’t deserve.”
Griffin said his opinion of the matter was shaped in part by having recently watched a movie about baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson and read books about famed slugger Hank Aaron.
“I just felt like the best way to respond to something like that is just to go out and do what we do, and not let it affect us,” Griffin said. “Because we’re the ones that get affected, not anybody else. So that’s why I took that position. But I completely understood why guys did want to do something. I was just kind of one of the ones that was like, ‘Let’s just play basketball.’ ”
The Clippers will do so again soon, opening training camp Sept. 30 in Las Vegas.