Blake Griffin and Chris Paul need each other

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin dunks over Miami Heat in fourth quarter action in Los Angeles on January 12, 2011. The Clippers defeated the Heat 111-105. UPI/Jon SooHoo

Hornets fans are going to cringe when they read the title of this post. I get it — the Hornets are a solid 31-18 and the Chris Paul trade talk has died down considerably since last summer.

But these facts remain: 1) New Orleans is not a legit contender, 2) the team’s second-best player (David West) is getting older (30) and approaching free agency, and 3) Paul can become a free agent in the summer of 2012.

After some trade rumors were floating around last summer, Paul met with the New Orleans newly-hired braintrust and has since kept his mouth shut, playing the role of good soldier. He’s having a good season (16.7 points, 9.7 assists, 2.6 steals) and the Hornets are having a nice year. But virtually no one believes that they’ll be representing the West in the Finals this summer. One online casino’s long-term market shows the Hornets as a 19-1 longshot to make the Finals. That’s pretty telling considering how inconsistent the Lakers have been this season.

So what does this have to do with Blake Griffin? Well, I went to see my beloved Bucks take on the Clippers last night at the Staples Center and got to see Griffin in person. He went for 32-11-6, and generally killed Milwaukee with a plethora of post moves, drives and long jumpers. The Bucks are a good defensive team, but they had no answer for Griffin who flat-out dominated the game offensively for the Clippers.

Griffin is a special talent. He can jump out of the gym, but he has the ability to channel his athleticism into effective basketball talent which is not always easy for someone so athletic. The 31-year-old Baron Davis is serviceable at point guard, but if the Clippers could somehow acquire Paul (25), and surround the dynamic duo with a couple of shooters and a defensive center, Griffin and Paul could lead the Clippers to the Promised Land.

How do the Clippers acquire Paul? I doubt the Hornets are going to listen to trade offers right now, but if I’m Clipper GM Neil Olshey, I’d call up Dell Demps and make a standing offer of Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and the Minnesota Timberwolves unprotected 2012 first rounder. The deal would net the Hornets a future All-Star in Gordon, as well as cap relief and solid post play in the form of Kaman. With the direction the T-Wolves are headed, that 2012 draft pick will probably be in the Top 5. Gordon would be a steep price to pay, but if you want a Top 2 point guard in a point guard-dominated league, you’re going to have to give something up.

Paul and Griffin would be devastating in the pick-and-roll and Griffin’s ability to post up would take the pressure off of Paul and allow him to take over in the clutch if the situation warranted it. Paul would also love playing with D’Andre Jordan, who has already shown a Tyson Chandler-like ability to finish alley-oops with outstanding power.

Worried about L.A. being a Laker town? Kobe is starting to show his age and if Paul and Griffin are headlining the Clippers, it won’t take long for a good portion of the Laker “faithful” to switch sides and start rooting for the city’s other team.

I’m not suggesting this is likely to happen, or even remotely possible. I’m just saying that it should happen. Even if Donald Sterling is the worst owner in the league.

Oh, and if CP3 isn’t available, Deron Williams would work too.

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Could Blake Griffin eventually become a Laker?

J.A. Adande of suggests the Lakers as a possible destination for Griffin when he becomes a free agent in 2014.

From 1994 to 2004, the Clippers had 10 picks in the first 10 selections of the draft. The only one to stay with the team for more than five seasons is Chris Kaman, the center selected sixth overall in 2003.

Griffin could become an unrestricted free agent in 2014, which coincides with the expiration of Kobe Bryant’s and Pau Gasol’s contracts with the Lakers. Now that’s a franchise with a history of attracting and retaining star players, one with a low tolerance for down time. If the Lakers have to reset in 2014, who better for them to do it with than Griffin?

For his part, Griffin seems to be focused on the right thing — making the Clippers better.

“I would love to do that,” Griffin said. “I would love to be a part of it. I don’t think there’s a greater feeling than helping something, being a part of something bigger than yourself, being a part of something that changes the culture. If we’re really committed to winning, we’re committed to being better, I would love to be here. But there’s a lot of years, a lot of games to be played before any of that’s going to be decided.”

The phrase that caught my eye was “if we’re really committed to winning…”

That’s the rub with the Clippers, isn’t it? There have been a lot of good players come through the franchise and they hardly ever stay. Can Griffin and Eric Gordon turn this thing around quickly enough to convince themselves to stay? Can Clippers management surround them with enough talent to make the playoffs? If Gordon doesn’t re-sign in 2013, I doubt Griffin will re-up the following summer, but that’s just speculation.

The key is Donald Sterling. Widely regarded as one of the worst owners in sports, the Clippers’ bubble always seems to burst, and some have suggested that Sterling’s stink is the reason.

In Griffin they have a bubble. A very, very big bubble. Is it going to burst?

No LeBron in the dunk contest

Last year, he said he was going to play. Last week, he said he was 50/50. Today, the participants for the Slam Dunk contest were announced, and surprise-suprise, LeBron’s name wasn’t on the list.

2009 Sprite Slam Dunk champion Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks will attempt to become the first three-time winner of the competition when he defends his title on NBA All-Star Saturday Night, Feb. 13, at American Airlines Center (8 p.m. ET on TNT) in Dallas. Robinson will compete against the Charlotte Bobcats’ Gerald Wallace and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Shannon Brown.

The Toronto Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Eric Gordon will compete in the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk-In, a single-round slam dunk competition that will be held at halftime of the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam on Friday, Feb. 12.

I’m interested to see what Shannon Brown can do. He’s a smallish guy (6’4″ passes for small these days) with great hops.

It’s a bummer that LeBron refuses to participate, but I can’t say I’m surprised.

NBA Draft Do-Over: 2008

How would the 2008 NBA Draft go if owners and GMs knew then what they know now?

Here’s my take…

#1 Chicago: Derrick Rose
The Bulls don’t want a mulligan. They are perfectly happy with their franchise point guard.

#2 Miami: Brook Lopez
Michael Beasley isn’t a bust, no matter what anyone says. But if the Heat had it all to do over again, they’d go with Lopez here, who posted 13.0 points and 8.1 rebounds in about 31 minutes of playing time.

#3 Minnesota: O.J. Mayo
I don’t think the T-Wolves would do anything differently. They’d still draft Mayo and trade with Memphis for Love. Why not?

#4 Seattle/OKC: Russell Westbrook
Likewise, the Thunder have to be happy with what they have in Westbrook, who averaged 20.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists in February.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Love?

The rosters for the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge have been announced and there are a few surprises.

The rookie roster consists of Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, O.J. Mayo, Eric Gordon, Rudy Fernandez, Michael Beasley, Brook Lopez, Greg Oden and Marc Gasol.

The sophomore roster includes Rodney Stuckey, Aaron Brooks, Kevin Durant, Wilson Chandler, Jeff Green, Al Thornton, Luis Scola, Al Horford and Thaddeus Young.

Kevin Love isn’t on the nine-man roster for the Rookie Challenge, and it’s a big, glaring snub. ESPN’s John Hollinger agrees.

For starters, the decision to select Eric Gordon ahead of Kevin Love for the rookies was completely inexcusable.

Don’t get me wrong; Gordon is going to have a fine career, it seems, and in almost any other year he’d be a shoo-in for the team. But he made this squad mainly because the forlorn Clippers have no choice but to play him extensive minutes.

As good as he’s looked, Gordon is the only rookie team member with a Player Efficiency Rating below the league average, while Love has a better PER than every player on the rookie team except Greg Oden. Love leads the league in offensive rebound rate, as I mentioned the other day, but his prodigious work on the boards has gone largely unnoticed because he plays only 23.2 minutes a game, far less than Gordon’s 32.2.

Love’s absence is especially surprising considering how the rookie roster is loaded with four guards (Rose, Westbrook, Mayo, Gordon), one G/F (Fernandez) and only one true forward (Beasley). You’d think that if it were a tossup between Gordon and Love (which it isn’t) that they’d at least want to get another true forward on the roster to balance things out.

Hollinger goes on to rail against the sophomore roster snubs, which included Wilson Chandler over Jamario Moon, Al Thornton over Carl Landry and the worst of all (he says) — Aaron Brooks over Ramon Sessions.

Interestingly, seven of the top 11 picks of the 2007 draft — Mike Conley, Yi Jianlian, Corey Brewer, Brandan Wright, Joakim Noah, Spencer Hawes and Acie Law — did NOT make the sophomore roster. (I counted Greg Oden amongst the four since he made the rookie roster.) Conversely, six of the top 11 picks in the 2008 draft did make the rookie team.

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