Media and analysts aren’t shy when it comes to Blake Griffin.
He’s heavily critiqued, many not thinking his play in the regular season translates to something of use in the postseason once the game slows down and teams key in on him. They splice his post-up game, discrediting his improvement on the block due to how he acquires his points. “All he does is dunk.” “All he catches is lobs.” He’s “soft” and heavily disliked around the league. Anything you can think of pertaining to the fourth year power forward, it’s been said.
But lately that group of people has been awfully quiet. It has a lot to do with how well Griffin has played.
The former number one overall pick is no stranger to putting up big numbers. For his career he is a 20-point, 10-rebound guy, but this year he’s been on another level. The improvements critics have wanted Griffin to make he’s made. That jump shot we all killed him for not having? Well he’s improved it. Not only are his long-two percentages up from last year jumping from 34.2% to 41.9%, but he’s shooting as well (or close to) from 20-24 feet as some of the more notable forwards in the NBA such as Kevin Durant (43%), Lamarcus Aldridge (41%), Kevin Love (44.9%) and Dirk Nowitzki (35%).
Even his footwork has improved ten-fold from his inaugural NBA season as he’s learning how to create better balance once he initiates his move, and he’s realizing when and how to attack match-ups, going with speed against bigger defenders to create space and punishing smaller opponents on the block.
Defensively, you can see Doc Rivers effect on him. Having the physical tools has never been enough for Blake, but Rivers’ system has helped excel him at an area that was often cited as a weakness. At times Rivers has asked Blake to guard some of the best scorers in the NBA in Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony, not doing a bad job in the process.
And did I mention he’s averaging 25.2 points on 54.1 percent shooting , 8.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists over his last ten contests? Eight of which have come without the teams best player in Chris Paul? They’ve won six of those eight with one of those losses coming against the Indiana Pacers. With the added responsibility of carrying his team during their toughest test of the year, he’s lived up to the billing a player of his stature is marked with.
It’s the norm for a player of Griffin’s talent level to improve after several years in the NBA. As a top pick it’s expected, but the problem is those who are quickest to cause the ruckus when Griffin is underperforming are nowhere to be found when he’s playing great ball.
We hear it all the time when his peers are performing well, those on television or social networks can’t contain themselves. Every game Kevin Love performs well, there are endless mentions of him being the best power forward in the NBA by a wide margin. Lamarcus Aldridge, or at least how he’s played this season, has thrown him into this conversation also. Anthony Davis has emerged as the new media darling as he continues to show the world why he was chosen number one a few years back.
But when Griffin does it there is silence.
The media’s way of recognizing Blake Griffin draws parallels to Dwight Howard, or at least Dwight Howard post-Orlando. When he was down, the media attacked like angry wolves on the prowl and killed his flaws as he fought through injury and the limelight of being a Los Angeles Lakers center. During that last stretch of the season, plus his time currently as a Houston Rocket, those shouts have turned to murmurs. That’s what happens when Griffin excels.
I’ve attempted to get to the bottom of this, but have drawn blanks. Is it because of his style of play, flamboyant and excessive? Is it because he was once the media’s darling as Davis is now and people expected his game to make quantum leaps instead of him progressing gradually over time? Is it because he’s constantly in our faces, whether a highlight film, commercial, television appearance, etc. is the cause? Whatever the reason is, it’s makes me wonder how a player, one who is a top athlete in his respective sport, doesn’t gain praise in an era where the media is quick to anoint one as fast as they are to bring one down.
With or without the media circus surrounding him, Griffin will continue to keep playing at an elite level. They’ll show up once he underperforms on the national stage or is eliminated early in the playoffs like many suspect of this Los Angeles Clippers team.
But, for now it’s just crickets. That’s the biggest sign of progress for Blake could ask for.