Breaking the Curse: How L.A. Clippers can develop Blake Griffin into a star
Even when Hollywood’s other team got it right, things always went wrong. For instance, the organization failed to develop and nurture blue-chip prospects like Lamar Odom and Shaun Livingston (pre-injury). Several promising teams, like the 2005-06 squad, never got the chance to stay together …
I call it ‘The Curse’.
For years, I thought Los Angeles owner Donald Sterling angered the basketball Gods because the Clippers suffered through years of losing and ineptitude. Playoff appearances were few and far between, while the club erred in drafting busts Benoit Benjamin and Michael Olowokandi first overall.
Even when Hollywood’s other team seemed to get it right, things always went wrong. For instance, the organization failed to develop and nurture blue-chip prospects like Lamar Odom and Shaun Livingston (pre-injury). Several promising squads, like the 2005-06 crew, never got a chance to stay together.
One step forward, several steps back. Until yesterday, this described the cursed life of the Clippers. During game one of the Western Conference Finals, Los Angeles won the lottery, earning the first overall selection in the upcoming draft. Barring a trade, they’ll take Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin.
So how does Griffin become the rare Clipper success story? And how does he avoid becoming another punch line for the NBA’s worst run organization?
They must invest in his talent. For years, Sterling wouldn’t spend on any facet of the team and was content to cash luxury tax rebate cheques from other free-spending owners. His penny-pinching ways extended to player development, where the Clippers’ youngsters lacked support.
But Griffin can’t reach his full potential without help. This means Sterling will have to pay for personal trainers, strength coaches, nutritionists, and possibly an off-court babysitter. The Clippers likely have some or all these things on staff, but they should upgrade to ensure Griffin is surrounded by the best in the business.
Partner the kid with a respected veteran. Years ago, in Minnesota, Sam Mitchell took a fresh-faced Kevin Garnett under his wing. The situation was different because Garnett was straight out of high school, but Mitchell’s wisdom helped develop The Big Ticket into a superstar.
Marcus Camby would make an ideal mentor for Griffin. The former Defensive Player of the Year understands the pressure of being a high lottery pick. Camby, even after an injury-plagued season, remains a solid five-man and has much to teach Griffin on the defensive end.
Frankly, Zach Randolph’s influence should be limited. The front office will have to be on the watch for ‘The Posse’. Also, ‘Z-Bo’ and Griffin both man the four-spot, so perhaps a sucker can be found to pick up the remaining 2 years and 32 million dollars on the veteran’s contract.
Griffin needs the Clippers to blossom. If they oblige, the talented youngster could become quite a player and even break the curse.