Coming into this summer, Blake Griffin was supposed to be, arguably, the top power forward playing for Team USA during this summer’s FIBA World Cup. Griffin was supposed to take on a principle role on the squad. His size, power and rebounding would have taken center stage against smaller opponents overseas. However, instead of joining his NBA teammates, Blake Griffin, following Kevin Love, is going to take the summer off to rest his body due, to a playoff injury, in the form of a back fracture. This marks the second time that Griffin has had to pull out of international competition, after tearing his meniscus during the summer of 2012.
Initially, Griffin reportedly exited Team USA based on his desire for the Clippers to be his sole focus. As such, he wanted to use the summer to prepare for the upcoming 2014-2015 season. However, five days after the announcement he would be leaving the team, Griffin came clean by announcing that during the playoffs, he suffered a slight back fracture. As a result of this injury, Griffin will, essentially, take the summer off by resting his injury, in order to be at full health by the start of the season for the Clippers.
While it was bizarre for Griffin to initially hide his injury, Clippers executives, along with Doc Rivers, will be happy that their power forward elected not to risk his body further by partaking in international competition. Like others have proven throughout the history of FIBA and the Olympics, international competition is oftentimes a place where players, who have recently finished the rough NBA schedule, in turn, get injured. When injured in summer competition, it can frequently mean that a player may miss the start of the NBA season, if not longer. Griffin, who has had an injury-plagued past, does not want to over-extend himself, to the point of putting his Clippers in jeopardy.
Throughout his four-season career, Griffin has been the source of much criticism. His rookie year was impressive. He served as the franchise player on a lackluster squad. It was during that season that he averaged 22.5 ppg and 12.1 rpg. Despite those numbers, he was often criticized for not having much in terms of offensive depth, as most of his shot selection tended to be dunks, layups and tip-ins. His two seasons after that is where criticism increased when his numbers decreased dramatically to 20.7 and 10.9 rpg in 2011-2012 and 18 ppg and 8.3 rpg during 2012-2013. While it was understandable for his numbers to drop somewhat with the arrival of Chris Paul, a drop of 4.5 ppg and 3.8 rpg was worrisome.
This past season something changed for Griffin. His numbers bounced back, as he averaged 24.1 ppg and 9.5 rpg, while shooting career highs of 52 percent from the field and 71 percent from the free throw line. Griffin also placed third in MVP voting behind eventual winner Kevin Durant and four-time winner LeBron James, which was quite the company to be a part of. Certainly, Doc Rivers helped play a part by focusing the offense around Griffin more this past season. Also, the power forward developed a deeper offensive game by focusing on his jump shot. More importantly, his increased offensive game gave a positive jolt to the Clippers. They finished the season with a 57-25 record, where they were first in ppg at 107.9.
Griffin has had a strange week. Initially, it appeared he dropped off of Team USA for the same reason Kevin Love did, to prevent injury for the upcoming season. Instead, Griffin did himself and his team a favor, by opting out when he already had an injured back. Now, this back fracture will allow Blake Griffin to take the summer off, where he can rest before he is due back on the court this fall. After all, the All-Star wants to prove to the rest of the league that his third-place vote as MVP was no fluke. More importantly, he wants to help the Clippers contend for their first championship.
Commentary By Simon Mounsey