Welcome to L.A. Blake: Now Start Winning.
With the first pick, of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Los Angles Clippers take… (Please not another Michael Olowokandi. No whammy, no whammy, no whammy!) … Blake Griffin. Forward out of the University of Oklahoma.
Now that the hard part is over — Isn’t it disturbing when the hard part isn’t a player actually succeeding, but rather the team not goofing up the consensus No. 1 pick? — it’s time for Blake to get to work. And get to winning.
The sad thing is, I’m completely serious. Clipper county nation is tired of the laughing. Tired of wallowing in shame. Tired of playing role of, “ball” in the NBA’s game of kickball.
Tired of losing.
So listen up Blake, I have a few words of wisdom for you to keep in mind during your first season as a Clip. Trust me it’s going to help. Pay attention.
1) See that guy on the sidelines, standing by your bench, wearing the suit? Yeah? Never listen to him.
Stay as far away from “Coach” Mike Dunleavy as possible. In two years (and maybe sooner if Donald Sterling sacks up and cans him) he will be an ESPN analyst, pretending to know the ins and outs of coaching in the NBA, on the air, leaving nothing but a cemetery filled with all the stiffs he’s accumulated over his tenure, in his wake.
The main thing you need to know about Dunleavy: he will ruin you. He will take what you have built and toss it face first into the molten lava of a volcano. He has the power to pull you down. Just look at Baron Davis. Don’t let him do it. Stay strong. Stay away.
2) Make Baron Davis care again. We know it’s in him. He needs you Blake.
Become the Elton Brand, Baron Davis thought he was signing to play with in Clipper-land.
By Christmas the only gift Davis was wishing for was a mulligan. He didn’t get one. But you have the opportunity to become the closest thing to it. Fans won’t expect you to become an All-Star over night. But you can help Davis become one again, he just has to give a crap.
I guarantee if you send him an invitation for a summer of hoops and Navy Seal workouts, Davis will be there. He wants to change the Clippers’ losing culture. That’s why he signed last year. Brand just happened to leave him hanging out to dry.
Going back to my first pearl of wisdom, Dunleavy has already tainted Davis by making him loath playing in his hometown. The good news is with only one poisoned season, you can help turn Davis around. All you need to do is make him care again.
3) For the love of Shawn Livingston, protect your knees. If you get hurt, you can’t work, and that doesn’t work for us.
The history of promising Clipper players who have torn or ruptured something that wasn’t created to bend or break is so extensive it’s not worth getting into. Blake, if you do only one thing, stay healthy.
4) Get together with Davis, Eric Gordon, Al Thornton, Marcus Camby and maybe even Chris Kaman if it tickles your fancy and start a mutiny against Zach Randolph and Ricky Davis.
Why? Because Randolph is as good as gone (even if the Clips have to buy him out and cut him) and as you push him out the door, you might as well kick Davis out with him.
Those two can do nothing but force you to learn how to play without the ball in your hands, because with them on the floor, you’ll see as much of it as you will Moby Dick.
You don’t play point guard. You need the ball. You need to score. The Clippers need you to score.
Start bonding with Davis, Gordon, Thornton, and Camby. Those are the guys you want the Clippers to hang onto. Kaman, you can take or leave, your call. Randolph and (Ricky) Davis can’t help you, but those other guys can aid you in changing the team’s culture.
5) Win. Just win.
Fans won’t expect you to make the playoffs in 2009-’10, that would be silly, but if you just make the chase interesting for L.A.’s other team, it will go a long way with them. The Clippers do not have the pieces around you to win, yet, but adding you to the mix gives them enough firepower to at least make things interesting again.
Make no mistake about it, your NBA legacy, at least in the early years, will almost completely depend on whether or not you can propel this team out of the lottery and into the playoffs. Don’t be burdened by the pressure, embrace it. If you do, fans will back you. Contrary to popular belief, L.A. is big enough for both the Clippers and the Lakers. The purple and gold are established. If you help make the red and white relevant, fans will embrace you.
On the other hand, if they lose, like they always do, you will be an after-thought.
And if you bail on them, they will bail on you.
Don’t do it Blake. Stick around and change the way people view the Clippers.