Clippers forward Blake Griffin takes questions from the media during media… (Damian Dovarganes / Associated…)
Blake Griffin's statistics last season dipped just a little from his rookie campaign, though he did play a major role in the Clippers reaching the second round of the NBA playoffs.
He certainly earned enough respect for his work to be named to the All-NBA second team last season and he was voted as a starter on the Western Conference All-Star team. He's also on the cover of "NBA 2K13" with Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Chicago's Derrick Rose.
Yet, in ESPN's recent poll of "experts" who ranked every NBA player, their survey dropped Griffin's ranking several spots heading into this season.
Is this more motivation for Griffin?
No, says the power forward, because he's "self-motivated" anyway.
Still, Griffin was aware ESPN ranked him as the 14th best player in the NBA for the 2012-13 season, down from the 10th spot after his rookie year.
"You can look at the list and you can make the case that anybody could be higher or lower," Griffin said. "I know 'CP' [Chris Paul] was four" in the ESPN survey. "LeBron [James] one. KD [Durant] two.
"But other than some of those guys, it's a personal opinion. It's who you see more. You could have seen 10 of my best games in my career and you could have seen 10 of LaMarcus Aldridge's worst. It's one of those things where you put one guy higher than the other."
In many ways, Griffin had a better second season than in his rookie campaign when he averaged 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 50.6% shooting on a nonplayoff team.
Last season, he was 10th in the NBA in scoring (20.7), seventh in field-goal percentage (54.9%) and sixth in rebounds (10.9) on a Clippers team that lost in the Western Conference semifinals.
"You could see Steve Nash's 10 best games last year. You could see Russell Westbrook's 10 best. So your opinion is swayed," Griffin said. "So as far as that poll goes, that's not really one of the things that motivates me. That's a personal opinion. That's when people say I can't do this or I can't do that."
Going into this season Griffin had several goals in mind to improve his game.
He's heard the criticism that his jump shot must improve, that he relies on his athleticism too much to score and that he should be a better defender.
Griffin worked on all those skills over the summer.
He showed a better awareness on defense during the Clippers' scrimmage Wednesday night, constantly talking with center DeAndre Jordan on defense about their assignments and giving the extra effort.
"I get the most satisfaction out of doing things people say I can't do," Griffin said. "So, as you can imagine, that's a lot. So I've got a lot of motivation right now."
Griffin, 23, smiled.
One of ESPN's experts said Griffin may have been ranked too high after his rookie season. Other observers say Griffin is too talented and athletic not to become one of the top players in the NBA.
"It's really about having an unbiased view on things," Griffin said. "You can't look at everything and say, 'Oh, well, I did that great.' Or you can't look at everything and say, 'Oh, I messed up so bad.'…
"That's hard to take a step back and really look at things the way they are. That's one thing that I've got to work on, is being very even-keeled with the bad games and the better games."
Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said guard Chauncey Billups was able to participate more during Thursday's practice.
Billups, still recovering from left Achilles' tendon surgery, was able to do more on the court. The team hopes Billups can play by sometime in December.
"He actually went through a couple of contact drills," Del Negro said. "Not long, but he was in more than he was in the past. He's moving good. As long as he keeps on not having any set-backs and just keeps working forward, which he has been doing, he's going to be, I think, in good shape."