It finally arrived. The Clippers’ power forward had become the player they had seen glimpses of in the regular season during the 2015 playoffs. His play was aggressive, tactical, and dominant. The talk of his inability to spread the floor with his jump shot and his disappearing fourth quarter act was silenced. During that playoff run, Griffin was averaging roughly 26-13-6 with three triple-doubles.
In the first round, the Clippers defeated the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in a battle-tested seven-game series. They would then move on to face the Houston Rockets without Chris Paul for the first two games. Though the loss of CP3 was easily compensated by the performance and numbers that Griffin was putting up.
With Chris Paul absent, the team ran the offense completely through their newly appointed point-forward. On the national stage, Griffin was able to showcase one of the most underrated talents, his court vision. He tallied up 13 assists along with 26 points and 14 rebounds in the first game of the series.
The Clippers took a commanding series lead going up 3-1 against Harden’s Rockets. Just one win away from the franchises’ first ever conference finals appearance, the path towards the NBA Finals seemed well within their grasp…
But just as quick as that narrative took shape, it went away.
The cursed Los Angeles team would proceed to lose the next three games in dramatic Clipper fashion, full of choke jobs and an inexplicable Josh Smith three-point shooting clinic. That season would not be the year the franchise broke free from their stigma of losing. It instead became the year that Steph Curry and the Warriors took the league by storm.
And amidst the talking points and headlines of how the Clippers and Chris Paul may never get out of the second round, the brilliant play of Blake Griffin would soon be all but forgotten.
So how did Griffin go from being the the Clippers’ post-season MVP to becoming the most used player in trade machine scenarios? Well, it came down to a variety of reasons.
The Clippers started last season off with a subpar record of 17-13 before losing Blake Griffin to a quad injury sustained against the Lakers on Christmas Day. From there, they would go 18-4 without their star power forward which predictably prompted the idea throughout the internet and twitter feeds that the Clippers are better off without him. But just as soon as he was about to make his return to the rotation, he injured himself again. Not on the court, but in a fight with the team’s equipment manager that left Griffin with a broken hand and a four-game suspension. On top of his inability to stay healthy for the season, his character was rightfully questioned during that time which gave more weight to trade speculations.
Griffin only played 35 games during that regular season. Then the Clippers were bounced out of the first round of the playoffs due to the injuries of Griffin’s quad (again) and Chris Paul’s hand. And with Griffin’s absence, it felt as though the franchise had wasted another season in their attempt to achieve post-season success.
With the new season starting today, the stakes are even higher for Blake Griffin. Both him and Chris Paul are likely to opt-out of their contracts at the end of this year making them free agents. Reports show that Blake has already stated his willingness to re-sign with the Clippers, but there has been no indication that CP3 feels the same way.
Paul’s championship window is almost certainly closing as he enters his 12th season. And his chase for the ring may attract him to seek better teams outside of L.A. At this point, it doesn’t seem clear that Paul will resign with the Clippers to play alongside BG. And if CP3 leaves, you have to wonder what the future of the franchise and team will look like.
The burden is now on Blake Griffin to prove again that he can sustain his dominant play throughout the entire season while staying healthy, just as he did in the 2015 postseason. The Clippers will only go as far as Blake goes, and they will need a trip to the Western Conference Finals to entice CP3 to stay for the remainder of his career.