Blake Griffin and ROY a great fit
LOS ANGELES -- From start to finish, the distance Blake Griffin travelled this season was the same as every other player in the NBA.
October to April, fall to spring, 82 games.
But like most of his high-flying dunks, time and space do very little to describe the impact of his accomplishments.
In a few weeks, he will likely be named the NBA's Rookie of the Year, a conclusion so foregone the Los Angeles Clippers didn't even bother to put together a campaign for him.
"If someone doesn't vote for Blake, they haven't watched a lot of basketball," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said simply.
It is a testament to his dominance that one of the league's highest honors feels so inadequate in recognizing his accomplishments.
Griffin was not simply the best rookie in the NBA this year. He was a rookie, for the years.
"Once he made the All-Star team and averaged numbers as a rookie that no one has done since Larry Bird, I don't know if Rookie of the Year even does it justice," said Clippers general manager Neil Olshey.
"I think he'll be thrilled with it. I know it was a goal of his coming into the year. It was something we were hoping for him because of how hard he worked to get back [from a knee injury that cost him the 2010 season], but I think he's transcended rookie status and become one of the upper-echelon power forwards in the league."
Only a handful of players have had as big of an impact on the NBA in their inaugural seasons: Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Robinson, Ralph Sampson, Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson and Bird come to mind.
After completing his second triple-double in Wednesday's season finale against the Memphis Grizzlies, Griffin finished with averages of 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists.
That compares equally or favorably to Bird (21.3, 10.4, 4.5), Robinson (24.3, 12.0, 2.0), Johnson (18.0, 7.7, 7.3), Sampson (20.9, 11.3, 2.0) and Duncan (21.1, 11.9, 2.7).
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You have to look to Chamberlain's astronomical 37.6 points, 27.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 1959-60 and Abdul-Jabbar's 28.8, 14.5 and 4.1 in 1969-70 to find rookies who were markedly better than Griffin.
There is a part of Griffin that seems to understand just how good his rookie season was.
But there is a much larger part of him that chafes at basking too long in that glory.
"I try not to think about it like that," he said. "This season is one season for me and I want to be playing basketball for a long, long time. In my seventh year I'm not going to say, 'Well in my rookie season I did this or that.'
"You've got to move on."
History will remember a lot of things about Griffin's 2010-11 season. His nightly highlights, the All-Star appearance, the triple-doubles, the dunks, the car, the nod.
All of that was memorable.
But it was his drive, his distaste for mediocrity, and refusal to compromise his aggressive style of play for anyone or any unwritten rule that elevated him to such rarefied air.
"I think what it really comes down to," Olshey said. "Blake loves basketball. You knew he was never going to burn out. He loves to play. He loves to take care of his body, he loves to work out.
"It's not a means to an end for him. Blake is not a paycheck player. If he could go out and play at that park behind the Clippers facility, if there was a good run going, he'd go do it."
He has done so much, so fast, you wonder how many moments he's been able to truly enjoy.
His nature almost precludes it.
And yet at the very end, when the final buzzer sounded Wednesday night, he found himself on the ground.
Smiling, and completely spent.
"I think it just hit me," Griffin said. "It's over. I don't know what I'm going to do with myself now. You just kind of exhale.
"It was busy and it was hectic and I enjoyed every minute of it. I would do it all over the exact same way."