Blake Griffin Q + A
Catching up with the No. 1 pick just before the Draft.
by Cub Buenning
One year ago, Oklahoma Sooner forward Blake Griffin was coming off an impressive freshman collegiate campaign but was not yet a household name. For the college hoops diehards, he was a burgeoning superstar that helped revive the local university program. While some experts thought that leaving after his freshman year would have been a mistake (Cub Scouts had him last year as the No. 2 pick behind Derrick Rose) this year, there is no debate.
Blake Griffin will be the first name called in tomorrow’s NBA Draft; the L.A. Clippers have already said as much. From his chiseled 250-pound frame to his nimble feet to his startling athleticism, Griffin is a rare talent. He can dominate a smaller player at the block, can knock down the 15-foot jumper or fill a lane on the break for a highlight reel finish.
Three months after being eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight by eventual champion, North Carolina, the 6-10 Griffin is no longer in his Oklahoma City hometown digs. Rather, he has been enduring a sadistic and brutal training regiment on the west coast. Today, though, Griffin finds himself in the Big Apple for two of the biggest announcements of his life.
While having your likeness gracing this year’s EA Sports NCAA Basketball 10 is truly an achievement, it will be hearing his name called first by the Commish that will be the launching point for what could be an epic NBA career.
Us here at Cub Scouts have been down with Blake since he played his first ticks of college ball, but getting a chance to chat with the uber-beast just minutes before the draft was a real pleasure.
Households across the country should be caught up, by now.
SLAM: Let’s start with the game, what is it like seeing yourself on EA’s newest college creation?
Blake Griffin: Oh, it’s definitely cool; that’s the game that every college player wants to be on. To see myself on it is definitely exciting. To be on the list of guys that have gone before me, it’s great.
SLAM: Since your last college game in the NCAA Tournament you have been preordained as the No. 1 pick in the draft. Describe your last few months. What have they been like?
BG: Oh, it has definitely been hectic, just travelling all over the place and doing different things. But for the most part, I was in San Francisco training; really trying to get ready.
SLAM: Who were you working out with?
BG: The trainer our there was Frank Matrisciano, he was the strength and conditioning trainer and the basketball guy was (former NBA head) Bob Hill.
SLAM: What was your basketball focus out there?
BG: I worked a lot on my shot; shooting a lot of pick-and-rolls and stuff like that. Also, dedicating myself to defend bigger guys, smaller guys, whoever; kinda being a utility player.
SLAM: Was your brother Taylor out there too?
BG: We were out in San Francisco together working out and he has had a lot of workouts with teams. There are definitely some teams that like him, so hopefully he gets picked up somewhere. If not, he will have several options and I wish him the best. We will be going through the same thing together (despite two year age difference) so we can always lean on each other.
SLAM: Have you spent much time in the past couple months with some of the other guys that will be drafted this week?
BG: I have talked to a few of them over the past two months and then we were all in Chicago for the Pre-Draft Camp together. So it is definitely an exciting time for everybody.
SLAM: Your two years in Norman were highly successful for both you individually and as a team. I think you helped get that program in the right direction. Can you describe these two years and what they meant to you as a player and as a man?
BG: It meant a lot; it was a lot of fun. That was something that we were focused on coming in, (OU Head) Coach (Jeff) Capel always talked to me about coming in and help change the culture of the program. That was something that I really wanted to do and really wanted to make that a part of our team.
SLAM: As things go forward, were you at all disappointed that your hometown Oklahoma City Thunder lost out in the lottery?
BG: No, I wasn’t disappointed at all; it was out of my hands, so I wasn’t really worried where I was going. And nothing is set in stone right now and anything can happen, so we’ll see. I’m just going to make the best out of any situation that I am in.
SLAM: Like you said, ‘nothing is set in stone,’ but I’ll go ahead and make an assumption that you’re going to be drafted by the Clippers. The “other” franchise in Los Angeles seems to be in your future. How do you approach the Clipper mentality that has plagued this franchise for years? How do you take what you have done in your years of winning state titles in High School (four straight at Oklahoma Christian) and help build a powerhouse at OU, and jump to the Clipper organization?
BG: I’m not worried about what has happened in the past; that is what it is. I can only worry about the future and that’s what I am going to try to help change with whatever team I am with. But, you know, the Clippers, they have great players already there. Last year, they had a lot of injuries, which hurt them, but like I said, I am just going to try to help whatever team I am with move forward.
SLAM: What is the thing that you are most excited about as you move forward into this next chapter of not only your professional, but personal life has well?
BG: Just being able to play that first game. You know, put the uniform for the first time and accomplish a dream.
SLAM: What do you think will be the biggest adjustment for you during your first couple months as a pro?
BG: Just the flow of the game, it’s much different from the college level, it’s much more spread out. But at the same time, everyone on the next level is bigger, faster and stronger, so it’s definitely going to be a challenge.
SLAM: What do you think you need to do as a player to go beyond just being a serviceable pro and getting to that All-Star level?
BG: Just being an all-around player. Continue to work on my offensive game and my range, but also taking an interest in the defensive end and being a good defender and someone that can be counted on to stop other guys.
SLAM: With your recent busy schedule, did you have time to watch much of the NBA Playoffs?
BG: I did. I watched as much as I could, but we were on the west coast and we normally didn’t end training until almost 6:30-7, so we missed a lot of the games that started so early out there.
SLAM: Are there any players in the current or past NBA that you looked up to not only as players but individuals, as well?
BG: Yeah, guys like Dwight Howard, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. They are all guys that I have looked up to for a while now.
SLAM: So what is your itinerary for Wednesday?
BG: I’m pretty sure we are going to start pretty early in the morning, do a couple of interviews and then I believe there is a player’s meeting. I have a photo shoot…. Ummmm. (Long pause) What else is there??? Really just a lot of interviews and then that night my agency is having a dinner….. It will be pretty non-stop from about 7 in the morning to 10-11 at night.
SLAM: I would imagine it will all be worth it though, eh?
BG: Oh, definitely. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity so I am trying to cherish it and enjoy it.