Advertisement

PRO BASKETBALL / CLIPPERS

Blake Griffin just adds to Clippers' manpower

The No. 1 NBA draft pick joins a team that went 19-63 last season. Still, center Chris Kaman says, the roster is so loaded that the heralded rookie doesn't have to be The Man. He just needs to avoid injury.

September 29, 2009|Lisa Dillman

Chris Kaman was musing about how odd it was that Clippers rookie Blake Griffin doesn't necessarily have to be The Man.

At least not immediately.

"It's crazy you say that, right? But we won 19 games [last season] and you would think he'd have to come here and have to be 'The Man,' " Kaman said Monday during the Clippers' media day at Staples Center. "And he doesn't. That sounds crazy to me. How can we have the struggle we had last year and have someone come in who is the first pick, and is who he is and not have to be The Man?

"It's almost disgusting to think about."

Griffin, the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft in June and the new face of the Clippers' franchise, will have no shortage of willing mentors this season, including the longest-tenured Clipper, Kaman, the ageless Marcus Camby and others.

At least at first, Griffin will be coming off the bench, said Clippers General Manager and Coach Mike Dunleavy. Of course, that could change within days. Ideally, Dunleavy would like to have his starting lineup in place a week before the regular season, which was a moving target last season because of injuries.

For the record, Griffin is on board with the program, starting or not. He thought the last time he didn't start was his freshman year in a game against Baylor after coming back from an injury.

Small forward Al Thornton, though penciled in the starting lineup, didn't sound thrilled with the possibility of turning into the sixth man, as the energy guy coming off the bench, saying: "Would I be cool with that? I guess I would with that. Not my first choice."

Kaman isn't sure how Dunleavy will handle the glut up front, and made a point of including newcomer Craig Smith in the mix.

"It's going to be a tough job for Coach to fit all those guys in with all the minutes," Kaman said. "You obviously have to get the rookie [Griffin] some opportunities to perform, to see what he can do.

"With his skills and his abilities, he should be able to play a consistent amount of minutes on this team or on any team in the league. It's a great addition for anybody."

Kaman was asked what he would think about coming off the bench at the start of the season.

"I don't know. I don't know what Coach is going to do," he said. "I hope I wouldn't come off the bench. I think I've more than proved myself as a starter in this league and on this team. I don't know who would be starting over me. I'm trying to figure that out right now as you say that. I'm not a bench player."

Bench and Blake Griffin sounds rather odd too.

Then there's the small issue of the alleged Clippers' curse of injuries and general bad luck. Naturally, those familiar with team lore wonder whether the power forward from Oklahoma can escape it.

Griffin joked that he investigated the matter after the Clippers drafted him.

"I did some research on my own and there's not enough evidence for me to believe," he said, smiling.

Apparently he still feels that way even after he injured his right shoulder in his third Summer League game in Las Vegas in July. Then there was the more recent mishap during an informal session when he went knee on knee with Smith on Friday at the team's training facility.

Dunleavy said that an MRI test on Griffin's knee showed no structural damage. Dunleavy thought it might require four to five days off, so it's not entirely clear what Griffin will be able to do, and not do, at practice today when training camp opens at Playa Vista.

Griffin is a quick healer and he didn't think twice about his shoulder when coming to the aid of a stranded female motorist the other day, as chronicled by teammate DeAndre Jordan on Twitter.

"He was like, 'Hey, let's take a picture.' And I'm like, 'We're not going to go help?' So we went out there and pushed her car over to the side," Griffin said.

Griffin didn't think the driver recognized him. So at least he wasn't hit up for game tickets.

Ah, if only rescuing the Clippers were so easy.

--

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|