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Popovich raves about Blake Griffin

After a 23-point effort against the Spurs, the Clippers rookie has the respect of the San Antonio coach.

October 16, 2009|Lisa Dillman

The first player off the bus when it rolled into the parking lot of the sun-splashed Trump National Golf Club late Thursday afternoon was none other than Blake Griffin.

Firsts are dotting the career landscape of the young Clipper, the NBA's No. 1 overall draft pick in June.

A first meeting against icon Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs. A first exhibition start. And a first all-out rave from an opposing coach.

First, the rave:

Either Griffin was being his usual humble self or he hadn't been on the Internet all day because he seemed unaware of the compliment from Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich.

"He's a monster," Popovich told reporters after the Clippers beat the Spurs, 93-90, on Wednesday in San Antonio. "He deserved to be picked where he was picked, that's for sure."

Griffin smiled after being sufficiently reassured that monster was meant in the most complimentary way.

"That's cool; humbling," Griffin said. "For somebody like that . . . somebody who has coached a lot of guys. Makes me feel good."

A day later, he was still inspired by having gone head to head against an All-Star fixture. Griffin remembered watching Duncan play in Duncan's first year in the league.

"It's weird, because you dream about it and you think about it," Griffin said. "But then when it actually happens, or is about to happen, you're like, 'Whoa. Is this actually about to happen?' "

Griffin had 23 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes and was in the starting lineup for the first time this exhibition season.

Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy noticed the difference in Griffin.

"He seemed more relaxed, more comfortable," he said. "We talked about that being the case going forward. He played all facets of the game: ran the floor, defended well, rebounded . . . just played a good all-around game.

"The part of his game that has come on strong has been his outside shooting. He's got a great first step, great explosion, and if he can set it up with his outside shot that's tremendous."

Griffin said being in the starting lineup made a significant difference. "I was actually more relaxed because I was out there right off the bat," he said.

He was respectful of Duncan but not frozen by his reputation.

"I don't think Blake is going to be intimidated by anybody," Dunleavy said. "I think he's respectful and he's just going to play his game. He's got the confidence to know that he has a big game. He plays with a big effort so that is going to make it hard for him to have a bad game.

"It's hard for a guy who puts out tremendous effort and hustle to have a bad game, or to ever be booed by fans. Fans appreciate hard work and hustle and they identify with those guys."


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