In the second quarter Saturday night, Blake Griffin stole the ball from Kyle Lowry near the Raptors' basket and took off sprinting. In a couple seconds, he covered about 60 feet with the ball, weaving through traffic and dribbling under control toward the other rack.
There was just one defender in his way, standing underneath the rim like a scrawny misfit bouncer in front of a club door. That guy was Lou Williams, who stands about 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds soaking wet.
The old Blake Griffin probably would have tried to put Williams on a poster. Just ask Timofey Mozgov. Or Kendrick Perkins. Or Pau Gasol. This time, though, Griffin spared Williams. One hesitation dribble, a change in direction and Griffin laid the ball in softly with a finger roll. Six dribbles and 70 feet later, two easy points.
Meet the new Blake Griffin. His dunks are down. His assists are up. His midrange jumpers are dropping. But most of all, his perception and his reality are clashing. Griffin is more finesse than power these days. But is this a good thing for Griffin? Does trimming down the number of times he takes the most effective shot in the game -- the dunk -- actually make him a better player? For Griffin, there might be more to his evolution than meets the eye, and the unfortunate news Sunday of Griffin's staph infection merely interrupts the good work he has put in to elongate his career.