Sugene Lee

Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

Blake Griffin asked to grow up too fast

In NBA: LA Clippers on May 16, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Blake Griffin has now played a full season of 82 games, a shortened season of 66 games, and 8 playoff games. That’s only a total of 156 games in his career. That’s not a whole lot, right?

Yet, people around the league, whether they be opposing players, coaches, columnists, analysts, or fans, are asking Blake to do things it took other players at least 5 years to do (myself included). Blake didn’t come into the league with a full set of skills. He came in with an explosiveness that couldn’t match anyone else’s, ridiculous jumping and dunking ability, and most importantly, a hard work ethic. His work ethic is what essentially got Blake to average 20+ points, 10+ rebounds, and 3+ assists in his career. To make up for his lack of skills, he keeps his motor on at 100% any time his feet are on the court. He has yet to develop a solid post move, is slowly developing a mid-range jumper, and still has a cringe-worthy free throw shot. But how can you criticize a player who’s putting up these kinds of numbers purely on talent?

In the span of being in the league for two years, he has gone from a being on a lovable team who had zero expectations, to a despised team trying to contend for a championship. Of course, this had to be expected with Clippers GM, Neil Olshey, acquiring Chris Paul, Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups before the season started. But if you think about it, three of the five starters have never been to the playoffs until this year; one of them being, Blake Griffin. The injuries have plagued the Clippers, which they don’t use as an excuse, but I will. In only his second year, people have gone from loving his highlight worthy dunks, to dismissing and hating them. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because he does his “Blake Face” instead of pounding on his chest like a gorilla. Maybe it’s because of the way he stares at refs for a no-call. Or maybe it’s even because he gets hit in the face and “flops” so that the refs can see it. Okay, he has flopped before, but who hasn’t? He doesn’t do it excessively and I haven’t seen him do it for a while now. But let’s be real. The kid gets beat up during games and gets hated for it. The media has hyped up his “flopping” so much that it’s just a part of him now. It’s in his name. But when’s the last time selling a call after getting hit in the face was a flop? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought flopping was flailing your arms and body with little or no contact (i.e. Manu Ginobili).

As a fan, it’s even frustrating for me to watch him get back on defense because he’s always the last one to get across the court. It’s frustrating to see his averages drop tremendously in the playoffs. It’s frustrating when he can’t box out a Boris Diaw or Tim Duncan. Against Memphis, he might’ve gotten a pass for not being able to out rebound Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol, but they should be out rebounding the Spurs with ease.

So even as a fan who will defend Blake Griffin in whatever situation he’s in, I do get annoyed with the way he plays, even when he’s injured. And maybe it’s because nobody knows the extent of his sprained knee, but I do still have high expectations. And I think I just proved my point by being a hypocrite. We all expect so much out of Blake that we criticize everything he does wrong. We want faster results, but it’s not going to happen because he can only get so much better, so fast. Nobody was expecting the Clippers to get to the finals, especially after Chauncey Billups went down. But deep down, I think we, Clipper fans, still wanted them to somehow, impossibly, get there. At least, that’s how I felt.

“Grit & Grind” Is Not The Answer

In NBA: LA Clippers on May 16, 2012 at 7:19 am

First of all, I give the Clippers a whole lot of props for getting through the first-round. Nearly all ESPN “experts” expected the Clippers to lose in the first round, but they were able to grind out each win and win Game 7 on Memphis’ home court. It was one of the ugliest basketball I’ve seen, but it has to go down as one of the best first round series in the NBA Playoffs.

Then, here’s the problem: San Antonio Spurs. From the start of this lockout season, they’ve become an offensive juggernaut that just can’t be stopped. Once again, they’ve climbed up to take first place, record wise, and completely dominate their opponents. Unfortunately, the Clippers have to be on the bad end of the stick. When playing against a Memphis team that had one of the worst offensive in the league, the Clippers lucked out and got to hide their poor perimeter defense. In Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals, it was impossible to cover up their poor defense. Spurs were getting wide open three’s and drained 13-25 from behind the arc. And the Clippers’ poor rebounding continues to make me yell at the television.

The Spurs will not beat themselves, and the Clippers will not be able to grind out games to beat them. The second round will not be nearly as physical as the first round against Memphis, but the Clippers are going to be a heck of a lot smarter than the Spurs to beat them, which likely won’t happen because they have the one and only, Gregg Popovich.

With Chris Paul having an awfully bad shooting night and careless turnovers, Blake Griffin, Randy Foye and Mo Williams offering nothing on the offensive end will kill the Clippers. However, one thing we can take from the playoffs so far is that the Clippers’ bench have shown up. Known as the “Goon Squad,” they have changed the momentum of the game to their favor and have ultimately been the MVP’s of the first round. In Game 1 against the Spurs, Eric Bledsoe was doing it on both ends of the court with an efficient 23 points on 10 of 16 fg’s, 5 rebounds (4 offensive), 4 assists, and 3 steals. Essentially, he was the best Clipper on the court. He is the best on-the-ball and perimeter defender, and the stats don’t do justice to how he impacts the game.

The only way to beat these Spurs is if they can outscore this team. Spurs will score no matter what kind of defense you give them, but if the Clippers are not making shots, they’ll pay for it at the other end.

“Miracle in Memphis” happened, what’s going to happen next?

In NBA: LA Clippers on May 3, 2012 at 12:17 am

I said I had a feeling the Clippers would steal the first game, but there was no way I would’ve thought they would steal the first game coming down from a 27 point deficit.

Most people watching the game probably thought the game was over after the first quarter as it ended with the Grizzlies up 41-26. Memphis was strolling through the first three and a half quarters doing whatever they pleased, shooting over 50% and draining three’s without a hand in their face. The Clippers’ superstars, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, were held to 3 points and 3 turnovers combined in the first half.

With 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter, Chris Paul entered the game, down 24 points. Then, the chipping away began. Reggie Evans anchored the Clippers defensive intensity and physicality, grabbing 13 rebounds in 20 minutes and shut down big man, Zach Randolph.

Memphis took their feet off the pedal and thought they had game 1 in the books. So did everybody else. Televisions were changed to different channels, people were going to bed, and everyone said the Clippers were going to get swept. Even I, a fan who’s watched nearly all the games this season, asked why there was so much time left at the 8 minute mark of the 4th quarter. I wanted the misery to be over with and watch a great comeback game in game 2 of the series, but that came sooner, a few days sooner. The chipping, defensive stops, and three-pointers came so slowly that nobody else saw it coming until Nick Young made three 3’s in a row, cutting the lead down to three. Then, Blake Griffin made the two most important free throws of his career and were down one. Guess who put the lay-up in to put the Clippers up by one? No, you didn’t guess it. It was Reggie Evans off the pick and roll with Chris Paul. With less than a minute left, Memphis comes down the floor and gets the mismatch with Chris Paul and scores easily. Time out is called. Chris Paul brings the ball into the half-court with Tony Allen on him. Guarding too hard, Allen fouls Chris Paul who then makes another crucial two free throws. Clippers up one, again. With about 26 seconds left, Rudy Gay has the ball in his hands with Kenyon Martin as the defender. At 9 seconds, Martin takes the foul to give and it starts again. Gay takes the pull-up jumper with the clock winding down and hits the front of the rim. Too short. Too late. Blake Griffin grabs the rebound and throws it away to Bledsoe and the buzzer beats at 99-98. The Clippers just made the biggest comeback in playoff history.

You can ask Chris Paul what happened in the 4th quarter and how they came back, but he wouldn’t be able to tell you. What he is able to tell you is if that happened again in game 2, Memphis would either increase the lead to 35 or 40, or the Clippers would come within 8 and call it a good fight. The Clippers may have had the worst start of the season, but Memphis had a first quarter that might never happen again, so they cancel out.

All I can expect from the second game is that it will be a grind out game for a full 48 minutes. But, I can say that I feel like the Clippers will take game 2, too.

Why?

Chris Paul was no Chris Paul in those first three quarters. In fact, he was making rookie mistakes and playing out of control.

Blake Griffin was also not Blake Griffin.

Memphis, one of the worst offensive teams, will not be shooting lights out from behind the arc.

Of course, the Clippers can always cause self-destruction and give this game away, but can anyone expect Chris Paul to let that happen to his team again? I don’t think so.

It’s going to be a good one. I can guarantee that much.