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Clippers' Blake Griffin does have a flaw in his game

CLIPPERS FYI

The exciting rookie forward is shooting under 60% from the free-throw line, a stat he's working hard to improve upon.

December 30, 2010|By Lisa Dillman

If it seems as though the free-throw line is not overly impressed with athletic ability, reputation or attitude … well, the evidence is alive and breathing in the form of Blake Griffin.

The same Blake Griffin lighting up the Internet seemingly on a nightly basis with his highlight shows. Viral is good, not bad.

He has the athletic ability — the New York Knicks' Timofey Mozgov is a perfect character witness. The reputation? Yes, and growing by the game for the Clippers rookie. And there's the necessary ruthless attitude in the lane, in a power-forward-eat-power-forward world.

But when Griffin strolls to the free-throw line, all of the above is thrown out.

After 33 games in the NBA, Griffin is 158 for 270 from the free-throw line for a lackluster 59% success rate. And this represents a recent uptick.

Although his free-throw numbers are far from the team-low 44% — that belongs to DeAndre Jordan — Griffin is barely ahead of Dwight Howard's 56%.

This is the issue: It simply stands in stark contrast to the other elements of Griffin's game, so advanced and so impressive and so early in his career. In fact, the NBA public relations department crunched numbers and said Thursday that Griffin was the youngest player in league history to grab at least 10 rebounds in each of 20 consecutive games

Still, the numbers jumping off the stat page for Griffin weren't his 20th consecutive double-double, a Clippers record, but his free-throw shooting in an eight-point loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.

Griffin had 30 points and 12 rebounds but was three for eight from the line. All of his attempts came in the second half, and he missed the final four.

"It's very mental," he said, staring down at the final box score, morosely.

"I can shoot free throws. You get in a slump. I missed four in a row at the end and that hurt. I've just got to keep working on it. Gotta keep working on it."

You see that Griffin repeated himself about the need for hard work. And that make sense. The foundation of good free-throw shooting is repetition and hard work, two things Griffin embraced even when he was hovering just below 60% at Oklahoma.

"He practices at it pretty hard," teammate Eric Gordon said. "I see him working out on it every day."

Gordon also sees where it is breaking down on the way to the hoop.

"I don't think he is getting it up in the air enough," Gordon said. "That's why you only see it hitting toward the front, or the back. Just means he's not getting it in the air enough."

News flash: So the 21-year-old Griffin isn't perfect. Maybe he'll get there by Game 40.

Kidding aside, there is progress from the line. The coaching staff is seeing signs of improvement behind the scenes, the long hours in the gym.

"You can see his routine is getting more rock-solid," assistant coach Marc Iavaroni said. "You can see he's altered his technique somewhat. Most importantly, the way he's reacted to misses — he has really improved. He used to be all over the place with his emotions, his body language.

"Now when he misses, you see very little. You can see him maturing and dealing with that form of momentary failure. It's one shot, one point, 'I'm not perfect and I'll move on.' "

The Clippers' director of player development, Dave Severns, said he wouldn't be surprised if Griffin ended up "over 70%" from the line by the end of the season because of his hard work and increased confidence.

"We're going to need him to keep improving because he gets to the line more than anybody else on our team," Severns said. "And Eric. We'll be fine.

"…We've been really, really happy with the progress he has shown since October. If you're looking for chinks in the armor, the one area he really can improve on is foul shooting; because of the way he plays, he is going to be there so much."

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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