Blake Griffin: I'm going to work to be a complete player on both ends

Blake Griffin: I'm going to work to be a complete player on both ends
May 22, 2009, 12:03 am
Blake Griffin sits down for a chat with Jonathan Givony to discuss how he plans on dealing with the scrutiny of being the #1 pick, what makes a great rebounder, why he didn't always play hard in high school, what kind of defender he'll be in the NBA, his real height and wingspan, his goals for next season, President Obama, and much more.

Jonathan Givony: How have the last few weeks been for you?

Blake Griffin: They’ve been pretty crazy. Mostly I’ve just been training, been down in California training and getting ready, and then just kind of doing stuff like this, I’ll in New York for some different stuff for a few days, then head back to California.

Jonathan Givony: Let’s rewind the clock back two years, to 2007. You were ranked as the #17 overall recruit according to the Recruiting Service Consensus Index. had you at 16 and Rivals had you at 23. Now you’re on the verge of being the #1 pick. What do you think happened there?

Blake Griffin: I feel like I really improved. Obviously, I really dedicated myself to the game, I really dedicated myself to getting better, and taking my game to another level. In my class there are so many great players. I mean, you look at the top four picks last year- Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, O.J. Mayo, those guys were all in my class. I don’t think I got overlooked, I just had my own time. I just try to make the most out of it.

Jonathan Givony: I was talking to one of the high school recruiting guys in fact not too long ago, and they were saying that one of the knocks against you at some point was that you didn’t always play hard in AAU. Now obviously we all know how ridiculous that sounds considering the way you played at Oklahoma, but did you ever hear that before?

Blake Griffin: I’d heard that I didn’t always play hard in high school, which maybe I didn’t play as hard as I did in college. You gotta understand that the level of competition is a little bit different. I’m not saying that I shouldn’t have played hard all the time, but it’s one of those things where they have their own opinion of me. That’s what they saw. I tried to change that when I came to college. I tried to show people that I was gonna play hard and work hard.

Jonathan Givony: Speaking of playing hard, I was wondering if you could talk about the technical aspects of being a great rebounder. I think that’s probably one of the first things that made people notice you.

Blake Griffin: I think some guys just have a niche for it. They feel where the ball is coming off the rim. Some guys are just big. I try to use a little bit of both. I try to use my strength to get great position but also to read where the ball is coming off. A lot about rebounding is wanting it more. A lot of guys in the NBA weren’t that big, Charles Barkley, Dennis Rodman, they just wanted it more, so hopefully I can carry that over.

Jonathan Givony: How equipped do you think you are to deal with the incredible amount of scrutiny that comes along with being the #1 pick?

Blake Griffin: That’s what I’m working on right now. It’s a never ending process, for me trying to get better and try to make myself more skilled so I can become the player that I want to be. I’m not going to worry about it—there have been guys before me that have handled it just fine. Those are the guys that I want to emulate, the guys I want to learn from.

Jonathan Givony: We’ve seen that #1 tag be a real burden on some guys over the years—for example a lot of people think Greg Oden has really gone into a shell with the pressure that’s on him. Is that something you’re concerned about at all?

Blake Griffin: In my mind, whether I go #1 or I go #60, I’m still the same player. It doesn’t matter. Going #1 doesn’t make me a better player. It’s all about what I do with it, how I handle it. How I handle my business. I’m not going to let anything that people are saying affect me or affect my game.

Jonathan Givony: Is it almost better in some regards to be the #2 pick? Especially if you can go to a better situation as far as having better teammates and being able to win faster?

Blake Griffin: Winning is definitely a priority for me. It really just depends who is where. There could be a really good team at #2 or there could be a really good team at #1 and it just kind of depends on where it falls and it’s all about having a good fit and trying to fit into the system, wherever that system may be.

Jonathan Givony: One of the things you’ve been criticized for is your defense. What kind of defender do you think you’re going to be in the NBA?

Blake Griffin: I think I’m going to be a good defender. I’ve always really liked defense. My dad, he was my coach and he was big on defense. I kind of got away from that in college for whatever reason it was, I was a little tentative of picking up fouls and playing aggressively, which is really my style. I’m going to work a lot harder to pick that up, and really be a more complete player on both the offensive and defensive ends.

Jonathan Givony: Do you think the 18-foot jumper will ever be a major part of your repertoire?

Blake Griffin: Definitely, that’s something I’ve been working on for the past two years. I’m really dedicating myself to it. A lot of people say they haven’t seen me shoot outside of two feet, or dunking the ball, but it’s there, and I’m going to use it, and I’m going to keep working on it until it’s one of my main weapons.

Jonathan Givony: How tall are you going to measure without shoes?

Blake Griffin: Probably 6’ 9” without shoes.

Jonathan Givony: Some people say you’re going to measure out at 6’, 6”, do you hear that sometimes too?

Blake Griffin: Yeah I haven’t heard that though, about me.

Jonathan Givony: Standing next to you in the elevator, I don’t think you’re 6’6”, I can tell you that.

Blake Griffin: Yeah I don’t think I am either.

Jonathan Givony: What about your wingspan? Have you ever had that measured?

Blake Griffin: I think seven foot, maybe 7’ 1”. I was, I think in high school.

Jonathan Givony: Everybody has an opinion on what you do well and what you don’t. I’m curious about your own scouting report. If you’re trying to sell yourself to a GM, what are the things that you do best?

Blake Griffin: I think the things I do best are obviously, I love to rebound, I think that’s one of my strengths, but at the same time I think one of my biggest weapons is versatility, I try to be a big guy that can dribble, a big guy that can pass, that can shoot, that can post up, that can do a lot of things, and I think that’s going to be my biggest strength is being able to do more than just one thing, doing more than just dunk and things like that.

Jonathan Givony: So that freedom to take a rebound and go coast to coast, is that important for you to have, that kind of freedom?

Blake Griffin: Yeah, that’s something that I love doing, I love to see guys do that because I think it just puts more pressure on the other team.

Jonathan Givony: So if you’re with a really old-school coach, like a Jerry Sloan or something like that says, no way, end of the bench the second you do that, would that be a problem for you?

Blake Griffin: No, whatever he says, whoever I’m playing for, I’m gonna do it how he runs it, I’m not gonna try do my own thing, especially with a coach like that, that has been here for so long and has proven to be a good coach. No I don’t have a problem with it, just being able to adapt, like I said earlier, to whatever style.

Jonathan Givony: One of the things we struggled with when writing your scouting report was the NBA comparison part. I don’t really know if there is a legit one that is accurate in today’s NBA. Do you have any suggestions on guys you think you might play like, or that you emulate- someone that you might end up being like in the pros?

Blake Griffin: That’s a good question. I’ve heard so many people say things to me. There hasn’t been one guy that I’ve been like, yeah I think that’s it. A guy like early-on Amare Stoudemire. He came into the league and he was just athletic and always dunking and stuff like that, and in time he developed his jump shot, and he’s gotten better, and that’s someone who I see myself kind of playing like. He can get out and run, and do all those things, but I’m really not sure.

Jonathan Givony: A lot of players are really athletic. They can block shots, they can shoot, they can dribble, but they don’t have that “it” factor that is so instrumental in helping a team win games. Where does your energy, your passion, your love for the game come from?

Blake Griffin: It comes from my dad and my brother always being around the game. My dad has been a basketball coach for thirty-five plus years, so for as long as I can remember I’ve been around it. Being a coach’s son, I feel like I understand, through his eyes, through a coach’s eyes, what they want from a player. It’s not all about how many points you can score, it’s about helping make your teammates better, and helping, almost kind of control the game in a sense, where you have a large part in the outcome.

Jonathan Givony: Any goals heading into your rookie season, in the NBA, things you’d like to accomplish?

Blake Griffin: Obviously just to do well and help turn the team around and improve upon their winning total and also have a good year personally and be in the running for the Rookie of the Year.

Jonathan Givony: What are some things that you learned from playing under Coach Capel for two years?

Blake Griffin: Really I just learned a lot about the game through his eyes, and a lot about leadership. He was big into that, big into leadership. He would always tell me stories about guys like Grant Hill, guys that he played with, and things they did and I think he helped me become a little bit more mentally strong. I understand what I had to do to really help the team win and the kind of leader you have to be. You have to be a guy that is always willing to put in the extra time and be willing to be the one to step up and say if something is not going right and encourage guys when they aren’t doing something right.

Jonathan Givony: Were you happy with the year you had individually and from a team perspective?

Blake Griffin: Obviously, as a team everybody wants to play until that last game, and unfortunately, every team but one doesn’t get the outcome that they want, but looking back at the year I think we had a great year. By no means was it a failure, we did a lot of great things, we made some great strides as a team and personally, I felt like I did all right. There are always things that I feel like I can improve on, but my teammates and everyone did a great job of helping me out and making it a little bit easier on me.

Jonathan Givony: Does it bother you at all that people are saying this is a weak draft, with you probably being one of the top prospects, if not the top one?

Blake Griffin: It doesn’t bother me at all really, like I said earlier with the whole pick, number, and all that, just because this is a weak draft doesn’t make me a worse player, it doesn’t make a better player or anything like that. I’m still the same player and I’m still going to try and do the same things, so whatever anyone says, it’s their opinion and I’m going to roll with it.

Jonathan Givony: Your father is black and your mother is white, that sounds eerily similar to another guy that got a little bit of press right around the beginning of the college basketball season—President Obama. Is that something you ever thought about?

Blake Griffin: Yeah I’ve thought about it. It’s crazy to have a biracial president, being biracial, it’s great to see, and I’m obviously proud of that.

Jonathan Givony: What part does that play in the person you are today?

Blake Griffin: Just having a little bit of everything, seeing what it’s like from both sides really. I think has given me a better perspective on a lot of different things.

Jonathan Givony: Is Obama, is that someone you’d like to meet at some point?

Blake Griffin: Oh yeah, definitely, I’d love to meet him.

Jonathan Givony: Considering how things have worked out for you, do you feel like the age limit, is that a good thing?

Blake Griffin: Yeah I think it’s a good thing, just because it kind of makes guys realize and gives them a year to understand what all goes into going into the next level, into the highest level. I think there’s guys that would’ve gone out of high school in my class that ended up staying more than one year in college, so I think it’s a good thing overall.

Jonathan Givony: There’s some talk about even extending that to even two or three years. You spent two years; do you think they should do that? Is that a good idea?

Blake Griffin: Some guys are ready right out of the chute. There are some guys that are doing really well from day one. The one year rule is great because it makes guys try it out, and if they pass the test, so to speak, they should be able to move on.

Jonathan Givony: How tired are you of getting the same questions from reporters? Are we kind of giving you the same questions over and over again?

Blake Griffin: It’s not too bad. Every interview is a little bit different.

Jonathan Givony: It has been great talking to you Blake, thanks so much and good luck in the future.

Blake Griffin: Thanks for having me.

Pre-Lottery Night Questions:

Jonathan Givony: How anxious are you about tomorrow night, the lottery?

Blake Griffin: “I’m anxious, but at the same time, nothing is set in stone. Just because you have the teams in order doesn’t mean you are going here or there. It’s definitely exciting to see about the possible places.

Jonathan Givony: A lot of top picks in past years have said that draft night is exciting, but lottery night is nerve-wracking. Does it feel the same way for you?

Blake Griffin: “Tomorrow night kind of holds the excitement away, you don’t know what’s happening. I don’t know where I am going to be over the next few years, or however long. Tomorrow night is a nervous kind of thing. “

Jonathan Givony: Do you think the results will make a difference in how your career shapes up?

Blake Griffin: “It might change a few things, but hopefully wherever I go we’ll be successful as a team, hopefully I’ll have a long great career.

Jonathan Givony: Is it more attractive for you to land in a bigger market like New York or LA?

Blake Griffin: “Definitely. I would love to play in a big city like that, the market is great and all that, but besides that there are a lot of other great cities besides New York and L.A. There are a lot of great opportunities with teams that could possibly get it.

Jonathan Givony: How nice would it be to be able to stay close to home in Oklahoma City?

Blake Griffin: “I think it would be a good situation, but at the same time, I’ve been in Oklahoma my entire life. I have a spot in my heart for Oklahoma obviously growing up there and living there my entire life, but I wouldn’t mind getting out and seeing different stuff.

Jonathan Givony: Any thoughts on Sacramento?

Blake Griffin: “Obviously they had a down year. They have players. They have players that are good. It’s all about me fitting into the system and help make the team better.

Jonathan Givony: And what about Washington?

Blake Griffin: “Obviously they have a lot of talent for their record. Last year they had so much talent. Not having Gilbert Arenas pretty much all season. Obviously that hurt them a lot. They are a great team and they can be a great team next year just by getting their guys back.

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