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Blake Griffin is unanimous choice for rookie of the year

The Clippers' power forward joins David Robinson and Ralph Sampson in an exclusive NBA club, but he wants to do more next season.

May 04, 2011|By Lisa Dillman
  • Clippers forward Blake Griffin was named the NBA rookie of the year on Wednesday.
Clippers forward Blake Griffin was named the NBA rookie of the year on Wednesday. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Next up for Blake Griffin: working on his free-throw shooting (Dad says), spending time at home in Oklahoma (Mom says) and not having to only watch the playoffs on TV next season (Blake says.)

The to-do list got a little shorter when the Clippers' power forward Wednesday crossed off the biggest item yet, officially winning the NBA's rookie-of-the-year award. Griffin received 118 first-place votes, becoming the first unanimous winner since David Robinson in 1990.

Now, where to put all the hardware?

"All my trophies are in a room on the floor," Griffin said. "I don't have a shelf for them yet. I guess I should work on that."

This, as Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro suggested, was the "tip of the iceberg" for the talented Griffin, who not only has been under big pressure as a rookie but assigned the responsibility of changing the culture of an organization.

Four other players associated with the franchise have won rookie of the year. Three were from the Buffalo Braves days and Terry Cummings won it when the Clippers were in San Diego, in 1983.

Cummings was on hand for the official announcement at the Clippers' training facility in Playa Vista, as were Griffin's parents, Tommy and Gail.

Griffin was only the third unanimous winner, joining Robinson and Ralph Sampson. That news even surprised Griffin, who had thought Chris Paul had been unanimous too. Paul missed by one first-place vote.

"It means a lot," Griffin said. "It feels great. It's awesome and I appreciate that. I appreciate the recognition. Like you said, David Robinson, he had a pretty OK career. I've got a lot to work on."

That understatement was obviously intentional, but not the sentiment about working hard. Griffin has been all about hard work since before he missed the entire 2009-10 season because of a stress fracture in his left kneecap and during the long hard months of rehabilitation.

This season, it seemed as though the breakthrough game for Griffin was Nov. 20 against the New York Knicks, in which he scored 44 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and posterized Timofey Mozgov. In fact, Griffin on Wednesday said that was the first game where he felt like he was playing "freely."

His rookie season was like one long highlight. He averaged 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds, made the All-Star game and won the slam dunk contest when he leaped over the hood of a car.

Still, there was some isolated sniping that this wasn't a true rookie season for Griffin.

"How is it any different than a European player that comes over at 28?" said Neil Olshey, the Clippers' vice president of operations.

Washington Wizards point guard John Wall, who finished second behind Griffin in the rookie voting, wasn't one of the naysayers. He told the Washington Post earlier in the season that it was like being a redshirt freshman, pointing out that Griffin couldn't control how it happened because of the injury.

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