Griffin has game off the court, too

2009-06-09T00:00:00Z Griffin has game off the court, tooAl Hamnik
Times Columnist
nwitimes.com
June 09, 2009 12:00 am  • 

With all apologies to Mel Brooks and his 1981 hit movie "History Of The World: Part I", "It's good to be the king."

Oklahoma power forward Blake Griffin is getting the same royal treatment as the projected No. 1 pick in the June 25 NBA draft. Forget that he just completed his sophomore year and will become property of the lowly Los Angeles Clippers, who had better luck winning the lottery than most of their games last season.

He is mentally and physically prepared to lay it all on the line for the 19-63 Clippers.

"If they want me, I'm excited about it. I'd be ready to work for them," Griffin said at the pre-draft combine in Chicago last month.

The Clippers have had only six winning seasons in the franchise's 39-year history. To play there requires a very high pain threshold, which Griffin has repeatedly shown at 6-foot-10 and 260 pounds.

"I don't believe in curses," he said. "They have great players and a great coach (Mike Dunleavy Sr.)."

Of the 52 Chicago invitees, Griffin, Notre Dame's Luke Harangody, UConn's Hasheem Thabeet and Pittsburgh's DeJuan Blair looked like the best NBA stock in this year's draft class. All seem prepared for whatever the league and a new lifestyle will throw at them.

Gary native Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson came out after his sophomore season at Purdue and later admitted it was quite an adjustment for a shy kid like himself to make.

"I had a chance to get a little experience playing college ball and being able to handle 'off the court' things.' I learned a lot," Robinson told me during a 1999 interview. "I had to adjust to everything when I came into the NBA -- the fans, the media, staying in different hotels without having curfews.

"You play so many games, you have to motivate yourself every game."

With the often-moody Robinson, it was always about the money. That was his motivation.

The top pick in the 1994 draft staged a lengthy holdout before signing a $62.5 million contract with the Bucks and was never embraced by media or fans during an injury-plagued career.

Griffin, too, will command ridiculous money but has vowed not to let ego interfere with his commitment to the game. At the combine, he never mentioned being the John R. Wooden Award winner, leading the nation with 30 double-doubles, or officials already comparing him to Karl Malone and Antonio McDyess.

"In my class coming out of high school, we had so many great guys like Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo, Kevin Love and you saw that throughout their (college) freshman and (NBA) rookie years," Griffin said. "Now is just my time. I don't feel like I was overlooked (because) those guys deserved the attention they got."

Being a country boy from a small media market, you might think Griffin is uncomfortable with all the bright lights, TV cameras and pencil-pushers wanting him to feed the quote machine.

And, you'd be wrong.

"I don't mind the media. I don't mind you guys. It's part of the process and I'm trying to become more comfortable with it," he said in a soft, subdued tone. "I hope I'm ready for it."

As for your privacy, after June 25, forget about it.

"You just have to know there's people watching you and you have to be a positive role model and not put yourself in bad situations," Griffin said.

Did we mention he's also very mature?

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

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