Blake Griffin is going to be a free-agent this summer and for once, there’s a possibility that he may not resign with the Clippers.
Things in Los Angeles are bound to change with three of the Clipper’s “core four” becoming free-agents this offseason and it wouldn’t be surprising if Griffin at least tested the market to see what options he had if he did not want to return to the team that drafted him with the top pick back in 2009. What remains to be seen is whether any team other than the Clippers will be prepared to throw max money at a player that has been as injury prone as Blake Griffin over the past couple seasons.
In the past three seasons, Griffin has missed 83 total games in the regular season due to an array of injuries. There’s the staph infection in his right elbow that required surgery and sidelined him for 15 games back in February of 2015, the partially torn left quadricep and broken right hand that took up most of his 2015-2016, limiting him to 35 games; and then this year there was the clean-up surgery on his right knee that sidelined him for 18 games and most recently, the plantar plate injury that he suffered in game four and has him ruled out for the rest of the 2016 playoffs.
Griffin was evaluated on Tuesday by a foot specialist but plans to meet with at least two more specialists this week according to the LA Times. If Blake does have to get surgery on the toe/plantar plate, he would be out for four to six months and could miss the start of training camp. This recent rash of injuries that Griffin has gone through surely must have other teams hesitant to commit the money need to sign Blake or the assets needed to trade for him when he has missed the equivalent of a full NBA season in the past three combined.
Even before the Clippers drafted Griffin back in 2009, the power-forward had already gone through some injuries during his career at Oklahoma University. During his freshman year at Oklahoma, he sprained his MCL in his left knee which sidelined him for a game and a half and then later in the season suffered a partially torn meniscus in his left knee but quickly returned to the court after missing just one game.
After a fantastic sophomore season, Griffin decided it was time to enter the NBA draft and was drafted number one by the Clippers. In the last pre-season game of what would have been his rookie season, Griffin landed awkwardly after a dunk and ended up suffering a non-displaced stress fracture in his left patella. The recovery and rehab from the surgery would ultimate cause Blake to miss the entire 2009-2010 but he bounced back in the 10-11 season and won Rookie of the Year.
Griffin would then play in every game of the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season but would once again suffer a knee injury, this time during the off-season. While playing in a Team USA scrimmage for the 2012 London Olympics, the rising superstar tore the meniscus in his left knee and spent the summer rehabbing from the surgery instead of winning gold in London.
The 12-13 and 13-14 seasons were both healthy seasons for Griffin other than an ankle sprain he suffered during the 12-13 playoffs that had no lasting effects. He played in 80 games in both seasons but ended up getting injured after the 13-14 season while preparing for the FIBA World Cup with Team USA. Griffin had been dealing with backaches and back spasms in the latter half of the season and doctors diagnosed him with a stress fracture in the lower half of his back.
Then there was the staph infection in his elbow during the 14-15 season, quadricep injury and broken hand in the 15-16 season, and the cleaning procedure and plantar plate injury in the most recent season that I touched on early in the piece.
If Griffin was still the same player everyone saw him as in his first couple seasons in the league, there would be reasonable concern on how much he could continue to be an impactful player. But Blake has moved on and evolved from the young player that relied on his athleticism and raw strength which may end up prolonging his career. Young Blake was incredibly reckless on the court and took hard falls almost routinely because he was always going for the highlight play and could only play around the basket. Nowadays, you don’t see Griffin taking hard spills to the floor as much because he has fine-tuned his game and doesn’t have to score all his points at the basket.
The question that remains is whether Griffin’s body is already starting to suffer from the high-flying play-style of his past. Even when Blake was healthy the past couple of seasons, he didn’t seem as explosive as he once had been. Whether it is because his legs simply don’t have that amount of lift anymore or whether it is because Griffin is attempting to be more cautious with his body is up to debate but it’s hard to say that its solely one or the other.
The fact that this is the second season in a row that the Clippers have had their playoff run hampered by a Blake Griffin injury should be concerning to the team. It’s especially rough with the timing of him being a free-agent this summer because it is a little scaring committing the money that Blake will fetch to a player that has missed so many games during crucial parts of the seasons.
So is it time for us to accept that Blake has become injury prone and hope the next season proves us wrong? Or should we continue to expect Griffin to play most of the season and set ourselves up to be disappointed when he suffers another injury that forces him to miss extended time?