NBA @ 2: Why Griffin Won’t Defend Slam Title
Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin will play in his second All-Star Game Sunday, as voted in by the fans. He’ll join teammate Chris Paul along with Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Kevin Durant in the West’s starting lineup.
Last year Griffin was all over All-Star Weekend. He played in the rookie/sophomore game, won the Slam Dunk Contest (while jumping over a Kia) and came off the bench in the big game.
Blake seemed to be a part of everything, at it took its toll.
“Last year I kind of thought like, All-Star weekend is going to be a lot of fun and just walking around doing whatever but it’s not, it’s hectic,” said Griffin. “I’m ready for that and will kind of manage it a little better this year.”
This time around, while he’s also playing as part of Team Shaq in the Friday night game, he’ll be doing his best to keep a lower profile throughout.
Last season, the Clippers were in the middle of a mini resurgence last season but their schedule leading into the break was brutal.
“We got off a sixteen game road trip, got in at two in the morning and then everything started for me at noon on Thursday and it literally was to midnight every night, up at 8AM,” said Griffin. “I was exhausted and that’s why I kind of toned it back a little bit this year.”
It took some time for Blake to shake off the “break,” and his play suffered slightly for it.
“I got sick. I got real sick and to me it felt like I had a bad month after the All-Star,” said the Clipper forward. “It took me a while to catch up and to really catch my breath and all that so that’s why, that’s the reason for approaching it differently and taking a step back and taking some time off.”
That doesn’t mean he’s any less enthusiastic about making his first-ever start in the All-Star Game.
“[I'm] very excited,” said Griffin. “Last year the best part for me was being able to play in the game; so to be able to play against this year, I’m looking forward to it. At the same time, having a night off, getting some rest and being able to see my family.”
He learned from his experience last year. Great as it was, he decided not to defend his slam-dunk title.
“That’s my one night off and I’m looking forward to spending that with my family and just taking a break,” said Griffin skipping on All-Star Saturday Night.
Griffin does looks forward to playing with point guards Ricky Rubio and Jeremy Lin on Friday.
“It’ll be fun. [Rubio is] obviously a great player, a great passer, has an unbelievable feel for the game so it’s always fun to play with guys like that,” said Blake. “Nobody’s hotter than [Lin] right now and that’ll be cool if some of that Linsanity rubs off on me.”
HOOPSWORLD will have around the clock coverage throughout the weekend on any and everything All-Star . . .
Nuggets Confident in a Healthy Second Half
The Denver Nuggets are just 18-17 at the All-Star Break, ninth in the Western Conference, despite a strong start.
After winning 14 of their first 19, the Nuggets have lost 12 of 16 but Coach George Karl doesn’t view it as all bad. Injuries are certainly to blame.
Danilo Gallinari has missed 10 games (ankle). Nene has sat for 12 (calf). Ty Lawson has been in and out (ankle), missing five and even Rudy Fernandez has been slowed (back) for eight.
“I think we play great. I’ve really enjoyed the team. Even though we haven’t won a lot of games we should’ve stole a couple more than we did,” said Karl of the Nuggets. “We’ve had some great wins without our big guns and it’s just the way the NBA is right now.
The Nuggets just haven’t had their best players available but the team should be a lot healthier after the break.
With the lockout-shortened season, hectic schedule and abbreviated training camps – injuries throughout the league have been prevalent.
“Hopefully when we get back after the All-Star break we’ll have a lot more bodies on the court,” said Karl. “We can win these games.”
When healthy, the Nuggets have a potent lineup. They’re relying heavily on their depth right now and may still add a piece in restricted free agent Wilson Chandler.
While Denver doesn’t have the star power of a Carmelo Anthony, traded midway through last season, the Nuggets had a stacked roster. At full strength, they’re going to be a very difficult postseason out.
Karl looks back at the Carmelo resolution with some perspective.
“My hope is that it works out for everybody. I’m too old in this world to carry a revenge attitude or a grudge attitude,” said Karl. “I love competing against guys I used to coach against. I love competing against friends who were my coaches. I have a lot of them because I’ve coached a long time but Melo made a decision and I understand the business side of his decision and his desires and the system says he can do that and I’m sure there are fifty things we did that he didn’t like and there are probably fifty things that we didn’t, vice versa – so I wish him the best.”
In particular, George anticipates playing the Knicks again, although that will have to wait until next season. Denver took the first meeting 119-114 back in January but with the unbalanced schedule, the Nuggets won’t host New York and Anthony this year.
“I’m looking forward to trying to even mend our woes and our problems sometime this summer and then next year when we play them twice it will be an incredibly intense evening which makes it fun,” said Karl.
The Nuggets play 10 of their first 12 games after the break at home, starting with the Portland Trail Blazers on February 29th.
Can Billups Still Help the Clippers?
The Los Angeles Clippers lost guard Chauncey Billups for the season in early February with a torn Achilles’ tendon. The guard is currently recovering from surgery in his hometown of Denver.
Once he’s sufficiently recovered, Billups will rejoin the team for the remainder of the season (and into the playoffs) . . . albeit in street clothes. At 20-11, the Clippers go into All-Star Weekend with the third best record in the Western Conference.
George Karl believes his former player can still help the Clippers, even in an advisory role.
“I think so. I think Chauncey has a leadership characteristic. He’s a guy that when you walk into a party and everybody’s wearing a tuxedo – he has leadership there,” said Karl. “He exudes leadership and positive energy and he’s been there so many times that his experience would definitely help. There’s something he could give someone along the way.”
The Clippers hope to add in one more piece but J.R. Smith opted to take the higher paycheck in New York with the Knicks. A player like Courtney Lee of the Rockets would make a lot of sense but Houston has been asking for a first-round pick and to date, that’s more LA is willing to give.
In the meantime, Coach Vinny Del Negro looks forward to getting Billups back on the bench.
“He’s a veteran guy and he has the respect of the players,” said Del Negro. “The most important thing is that he had a successful surgery.”
“Hopefully we’ll get him back as soon as possible,” continued the Clipper coach.
Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to insure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @jfleminghoops, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNBA, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.