- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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But Blake Griffin couldn't decide. He abstained from making a prediction. He was too anxious. So he sat on a couch at the ESPN Zone here in Times Square, nervously playing with his strict dinner diet of salmon and green beans, texting back and forth with friends, brother Taylor and Capel and talking with his agents, Schwartz and Sam Goldfeder, before learning his new destination.
The suspense ended for Griffin when the Los Angeles Clippers won the right to draft him, edging his hometown Oklahoma City Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies in the lottery. There will be no more drama. This isn't a choice between Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley, as there was a year ago for Chicago, or between Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, as was the case two years ago for Portland. It's over. The Clippers, although they won't say it publicly -- to create some sort of suspense -- are already done with their draft work.
Schwartz and Goldfeder are planning only one pre-draft visit now, to the Clippers. They were told by all 30 teams that Griffin was the pick.
The first text after the announcement came from Taylor.
"'L.A.'s tight.' That's all. He's a man of few words, but we think on the same level," Blake said of his older brother whose junior and senior seasons coincided with Blake's freshman and sophomore years at Oklahoma, the latter as the consensus national player of the year.
"I know nothing is set in stone, but L.A. is a great opportunity, and if they do want me, I'll do the best in whatever way I can," Griffin said. "I know it's a little bit different [with the No. 1 pick in this draft]. I've heard rumblings that this draft is weak and stuff like that, so it does put me at ease a little bit. But at the same time, I know I still have to perform at the level expected of me."
Coincidentally, Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy was in Spain on Tuesday night after watching Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio play in the playoffs in case the Clippers were in the second or third spot in the lottery.
"After spending a lot of time and effort preparing for the possibility that we didn't get the No. 1 pick, this now allows us a lot of clarity to take Blake Griffin," said assistant general manager Neil Olshey. "It puts us at ease for the next six weeks."
Team President Andy Roeser was at the lottery in New Jersey and clearly was giddy with excitement over the selection.
Griffin said he focused his pre-lottery attention on his hometown Thunder and Washington, the latter a team he thought he could help immediately with Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison. But as soon as the Clippers were the choice, he knew playing with Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Al Thornton, Zach Randolph, Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby was tantalizing.
"They've got a lot of good players on that team," Griffin said. "I'm hoping I can come in and learn from the older guys, help them out and move forward."
Griffin should flourish running with Davis leading the break.
"Maybe I can fill a gap that they've had or been missing," Griffin said. "I'm a versatile guy and can adapt to what they do. I can dribble a bit, pass, and working with more of a traditional center [in Kaman] will help. He's done a great job since he's been in the league, and hopefully we'll work well together."
Schwartz and Goldfeder couldn't have been more pleased with the selection. They are actively working Griffin's marketability, and by going to Los Angeles, Griffin now has two markets to develop. They see Griffin as a natural to be a marketing dream in his hometown of Oklahoma City even if he isn't a member of the Thunder. They had Griffin on a flurry of activity Monday and Tuesday in New York City that included meeting with New Era to design a Griffin baseball cap, trading Nike stock in a celebrity New York Stock Exchange event earlier Tuesday and a meeting with NBA commissioner David Stern in his New York office before going over ideas to work with NBA Cares.
The Stern meeting lasted longer than anticipated.
"We actually talked for 30 to 45 minutes," Griffin said. Griffin said that Stern and he talked about the league, what to expect and how to enjoy this "exciting" time. Stern usually does spend some time with potential No. 1 picks. But rarely has it been done this early in the process. Griffin's marketing people knew putting him in New York for the lottery would give them the opportunity to showcase him a month before the draft comes to the city.
Griffin squeezed in a workout in New York and will get back to his intense workout schedule this week after going home to Oklahoma to attend former Sooner Wayman Tisdale's funeral. Then he's off to San Francisco to train before the Chicago pre-draft combine next week.
Griffin said the hat he designed will be OU colors crimson and cream, with a "BG" on the back and the word "Work" on the front. Underneath the lid, Griffin said, a Henry Ford-inspired quote (he tweaked it a bit) will be inscribed: "The competitor to be feared the most is the one who never worries about others but goes on making himself better all the time."
Without a competitor for the No. 1 pick, Griffin will continue to motivate himself, as he did throughout his brief college career, to be an impact player in the NBA. Based on the anticipation from the Clippers and the other 13 teams that were hoping to land him Tuesday night, there shouldn't be any doubt he will deliver on his promise to be prepared to play to his best.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
12hSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann