NBA Sunday: Griffin Fueled By Playoff Defeat
By all accounts, the 2012 season for the Los Angeles Clippers was a huge success. The team finished the campaign with the best record in franchise history (percentage wise) and snapped a five-season playoff drought behind the play of All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
However, the team was easily handled and eventually swept in the Western Conference Semifinals by the San Antonio Spurs, which ended a promising campaign on a sour note.
Griffin says he’s been watching plenty of film from the team’s playoff elimination and the setback is fueling his motivation to help the team reach the next level.
“I watched a lot of film,” Griffin said during the team’s annual media day. “A lot of the games that were on my iPad throughout the whole year were the playoff games. A lot of the games we lost were the games I watched the most. For me that’s motivation.”
The trip to the Western Conference Semis was only the Clippers’ second time advancing past the first round of the playoffs in the last thirty years.
While the defeat will be used as a motivational tool for improvement, Griffin also acknowledges that the positive strides the team made shouldn’t be discounted in the process.
“I know what we accomplished as a team last year and it was great,” Griffin said. “I don’t want to think of last season as a failure, because it wasn’t. It was a step in the right direction. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s very tough for teams to come together like that and win a championship.”
The Clippers had a busy offseason, adding quality veteran talent to the roster via free agency. Former All-Star guard Chauncey Billups says the addition of Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, Matt Barnes and Willie Green makes this one of the deepest teams he’s ever been a part of since entering the league.
Griffin agreed with the assessment and believes the team’s depth will be the key.
“Absolutely,” Griffin said agreeing with Billups. “Our teams haven’t been incredibly deep in the past. This is only my third season so it’s definitely the deepest team I’ve been on. But hearing that from other guys is reassuring because Chauncey has been on some great teams. It’s exciting for me. It’s exciting to have these older guys. These guys have been through a lot.”
The optimism surrounding the Clippers heading into training camp was almost short-lived as Griffin suffered a left knee injury while preparing for the 2012 Olympic Games for Team USA. Griffin, who underwent surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus in mid-July, says he is now 100 percent and ready to get back on the court without any restrictions.
“I feel great. I’ve been a 100 percent for a while now,” Griffin said. “I’m really just honing in on a couple things I wanted to take care of, but I feel great and I’m ready to go. I don’t have any restrictions which is what I pretty much hoped for and kind of knew was coming in the back of my mind. But it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Griffin missed the entire 2010 season due to a knee injury, so naturally the focus is on whether the forward can return to action with his explosiveness still intact.
“It’s still there,” Griffin said regarding his explosiveness. “This surgery wasn’t quite as intense as the last one. This one was really about getting that little piece of cartilage out of there, getting the swelling down. I didn’t really lose that much muscle at all, especially during the surgery. So this was a much easier process than the first time around.”
One of the areas Griffin will need to improve in order for the Clippers to reach the next level is his outside shooting. According to Hoop Data, Griffin shot just 37 percent on his field goals attempts between sixteen and twenty-three feet.
Griffin says he spent a lot of this past summer working on his shooting technique to address this area of his game, but admits it is still a work in progress.
“I’ve spent a lot of time on my shot,” Griffin said. “Kind of changed some things up. I’m hoping to just keep improving on those results, but it’s not one of those things where I’m going to be a great shooter overnight. But I think I have the tools and I have to keep working it and practicing the right way.”
But one thing Griffin makes clear is the fact he believes this current Clippers team can compete with any franchise in the league on any given night, excluding no one.
“I think we can play with anybody,” Griffin said. “I would never say we couldn’t beat a team and I really believe that. With our talent and our depth we can go toe-to-toe with whoever it is. We have the experience as well.”
The Clippers will open the regular season on November 2 versus the Los Angeles Lakers.
Optimism Building in Minnesota For Playoff Run
The Minnesota Timberwolves are in the midst of an eight-year playoff drought. During this time, the franchise has managed to finish a season above .500 just once, in 2005. Heading into training camp for the 2013 campaign, there is a genuine optimism surrounding the club after a strong summer working the trade and free agency circuits.
New to the roster are former All-Stars Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko. The club also acquired wing Chase Budinger from the Houston Rockets, who will provide the team with a solid three-point option from the corner. Newcomers Alexey Shved and Greg Steimsma are also expected to contribute.
Budinger says head coach Rick Adelman now has a group of guys committed to playing within his system and more importantly, doing it unselfishly.
“This summer Rick Adelman got a lot of the pieces he wanted, so I think this team is really going to play well together,” Budinger told Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune. “I already feel just playing with these guys that everybody is very unselfish out there. That’s what you need to be part of Rick Adelman’s offense: You have to play unselfishly.”
Promising second-year guard Ricky Rubio echoes Budinger’s comments on Adelman’s system.
“We’re going to play a Rick Adelman style,” Rubio said. “I love how he runs the team, how he understands the game, and I love playing pick-and-rolls. I love Rick.”
Securing a playoff spot in the Western Conference this season will be a tough task with teams such as the Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns all making significant roster tweaks during the offseason.
All-Star forward Kevin Love is confident of the team’s chances to finally snap the playoff drought and start competing with the league’s best consistently.
“I have faith in this team, I have faith in what we’ve done in this offseason,” Love said. “It was definitely a tremendous summer for our team. We have a number of guys who are going to help us … I do think we have a great shot to make the playoffs.”
HOOPSWORLD Season Previews
The 2012-13 NBA season is rapidly approaching and there are plenty of early storylines emerging.
Can the Miami HEAT repeat their championship quest from last season? Is this the final championship run for the aging Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs? Will Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks finally put all of their talent together and join the league’s elite? Can the new-look Los Angeles Lakers, now boasting Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, unseat the Oklahoma City Thunder as Western Conference champions? Is this the year the Minnesota Timberwolves reach the playoffs behind All-Star Kevin Love? Likewise, the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors seem poised to make playoff runs of their own, but can they close the deal?
The HOOPSWORLD team has these questions and more all covered and you can find season previews for all 30 NBA teams by following this LINK.