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Vinny Del Negro makes an All-Star push for Blake Griffin

Griffin, a participant in the slam dunk contest, will be selected for the Rookie Challenge game, but his coach says he has higher aspirations.

January 06, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • Blake Griffin, who averages 21.7 points and 12.5 rebounds, would seem a natural fit for the All-Star game, which is being played at Staples Center.
Blake Griffin, who averages 21.7 points and 12.5 rebounds, would seem a… (Cary Edmondson / US Presswire )

Blake Griffin's selection to participate in the slam dunk contest during the NBA's All-Star weekend was a nice first step, but Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said, "I know he has more aspirations for All-Star weekend than just the dunk contest."

Griffin is a shoo-in to play in the Rookie Challenge game, but his presence may be required in the All-Star game instead. Griffin averages 21.7 points and 12.5 rebounds, best among rookies. He would seem a natural fit, especially with the game being played at Staples Center.

"Statistically the numbers are there, but other guys have those numbers too," Del Negro said. "Wins and losses matter. Obviously, he brings a lot of excitement to the game. We'll have to wait and see how the fans vote."

Griffin is the first Clipper to earn a spot in the dunk contest since Corey Maggette in 2001. Clippers guard Brent Barry won the dunk contest in 1996.

But while Griffin leads the NBA with 81 dunks, it is the other aspects of his game that impress Del Negro.

Dunks, Del Negro said, "get the crowd into the game and teammates into the game, and it is two points." But, he said, "it's not the most important part. The fans enjoy it, and that's great. But you have to worry about more things than dunks. You have to be fundamentally sound and defensive-minded."

Injury report

Del Negro said center Chris Kaman may begin participating more in practice this week, doing "shooting and maybe some skeleton drills." But Kaman, out since Dec. 6 because of an ankle injury, is still a ways off from returning to the lineup, Del Negro said.

Kaman does appear to be closer to returning than forwards Brian Cook (ankle injury) and Craig Smith ( herniated disc). But, "none of those guys have had any contact or conditioning," Del Negro said. "They are at least two weeks off."

Collins back

Center Jarron Collins, released by the Clippers on Monday, cleared waivers and was signed to a 10-day contract by the team. The Clippers are still short on big men.

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