LOS ANGELES -- Give me The Blake Show over The Lake Show.
With Blake Griffin finally on the court the Clippers are the most interesting team in Los Angeles right now. Not the best, not the one with the most potential, just the most intriguing during the interminable regular season.
The Lakers’ story will be told in the spring. Kobe Bryant already sounds bored by the tedious process. If you saw a graphic equalizer for his media interviews over the past week it would look like this: —————-.
The Clippers, thanks to Griffin, figure to be a nightly discovery throughout the winter. And if the coming months are anything like his coming out party Wednesday night, you’d better get ready to pop every last kernel of Terrell Owens’ popcorn.
The injury-delayed debut of the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft carried a bit of mystery.
Before the game Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro wondered, “What’s his NBA game right now? Well, we’re about to find out.”
Turns out it consists of this: Go to rim. Get ball. Dunk ball.
He showed other facets. There was a drive from just inside the three-point line that featured a spin move and a bucket in the lane. He knocked down an open jumper. He pushed the ball ahead on the fast break and delivered a nice bounce pass to Eric Gordon for a dunk.
But it was his early action around the basket that got everyone from Staples Center to the far side of the Internet buzzing.
His first career points came on a one-handed alley-oop dunk off a pass from Randy Foye, thrown down with what looked like a year’s worth of pent-up energy.
“Yeah, you could say that,” Griffin said. “You could say a little frustration taken out on the rim.”
He added a layup, then a put-back slam off a Ryan Gomes missed jump shot. He scored his fourth basket on a tip-in after keeping the ball alive on two of his own misses. Fans everywhere grabbed their cell phones.
“Blake Griffin is REAL!!!!!” my friend Kevin texted.
And this was actually happening. Griffin had nine points and five rebounds in the first quarter. By the second quarter he was the No. 3 trending topic on Twitter. Here’s a sample from my Twitter feed:
@GregAnthony50 Looking forward to watching Blake Griffin….Wow!!!
@freedarko If you aren’t watching Blake Griffin right now you are a total punk.
@Dougferguson405 Meanwhile Blake Griffin off to a dynamic start. Is there a World Series game tonight?
@shugus Blake Griffin is making me strongly consider not watching Daily Show with Obama as the guest.
@SekouSmithNBA I wonder if Blake Griffin could average 20 and 10 on nothing but putbacks, layups and dunks and nothing else.
@russbengston Obama’s really boring. Stay with Blake Griffin
@roysj Whoever thought I’d choose the Clips (B Griffin) over sleep?
And it was Twitter follower Dweinman22 who first suggested “The Blake Show” to me.
The Clippers are still the Clippers. They didn’t understand that Brandon Roy is as dangerous as they come when the clock’s winding down, so they didn’t double-team the ball out of his hands and he hit jumpers at the end of the first and second quarters. There haven’t been enough sightings of the 2007 version of Baron Davis (he was 3 for 11) . Their fourth-quarter execution was miserable again, resulting in a five-minute scoreless stretch that enabled the Trail Blazers to pull away.
Portland coach Nate McMillan made better adjustments than Del Negro did, including a switch to a zone defense that started the Clippers on their scoring drought.
Griffin will have to make adjustments too, and realize his all-out, high-flying style isn’t conducive for the long term in a league with giants such as Yao Ming and Shaquille O’Neal. Griffin’s effort makes him as likely to break a bone as break a rim, and he’s been that way since the first summertime scrimmage.
“He must have been on the floor 12 times,” Del Negro said. “That’s great, but you’ve got to be smart about this, too.”
Griffin seemed a little more restrained -- and thus remained upright longer -- in his first NBA game. (Although he did run into a rolling advertising sign along the baseline, leaving it permanently stuck on an NBA TV ad while the rest of the signs moved on to other sponsors.)
His final numbers: 20 points, 14 rebounds and four assists. The final score: Trail Blazers 98, Clippers 88.
The Clippers didn’t get him the ball much in the second half, although his game hasn’t evolved to the point he merits isolation plays.
“It is going to be an evolving thing,” Griffin said. “I’m nowhere close to where I want to be.”
Neither are the Clippers.
“We just have to continue to get some games like this under our belt,” Davis said.
We’ve heard that refrain before in Clipper Country. Seen these results, too.
Somehow this was a much more fulfilling evening than in the past for the season-opening crowd of 18,382 at Staples Center.
Every time Griffin looked to a guard and pointed at the rim, hoping for an alley-oop pass, there was a sense of optimism in the crowd. Hope, promise, potential. That’s what Griffin and the Clippers have to offer. That’s what will keep my attention.