Over at ESPN, Kevin Arnovitz breaks the seal on the 2013-14 Clippers season, taking in the sights and sounds from Media Day.
The Clippers have had a peculiar relationship with the media over the past few season. They’re a team that’s thrilled fans with aerial exploits, but also repelled some of the NBA League Pass cognoscente with their moodiness.
The flash point of this tension has been Griffin, who was worshiped when he first dropped from the sky, made dunking fun again and quickly cultivated a sensibility that made him the league’s best pitchman. On the court, Griffin produced as a high-usage scorer, efficient rebounder and elite passer. There’s room for improvement mechanically and defensively, but Griffin contributed an enormous amount of offense to a team that’s won nearly two-thirds of its regular-season games over the past two years.
It’s almost impossible to believe a person who looks like Griffin and has enjoyed his on and off-court success could ever want for confidence. But Griffin is far from impenetrable — maybe farther than many. He endured a backlash, along with the empty innuendo (the requisite rap of being soft or a fake tough guy). And by accounts from Griffin’s teammates, he often served as a whipping boy last season when one was needed.
Ask Rivers about the twists and turns in Griffin’s evolving persona in the public imagination and he probably couldn’t tell you — and if he could, he wouldn’t. What Rivers clearly understands is that his power forward has the potential to be coached up enormously. Part of that project includes steeping Griffin in the dark arts of the Thibodeau-constructed defense. Encouraging Griffin’s continued progress with shooting sensei Bob Thate is another piece. But above all of the component parts is something more vital, if less tangible: letting Blake Griffin know he’s going to be a better basketball player two years from now than he is today.