A nervous, uncomfortable feeling spreads around the NYAC in New York City as the projected #1 overall pick in the draft bricks shot after shot.
What is going on here?
Clearly Blake Griffin has something on his mind, beyond the minor pain he’s suffering in two of his fingers, a byproduct of a drill he did last week in which he had to complete 750 push-ups in 80 minutes.
“I haven’t had time to eat much today,” Griffin explains sheepishly afterwards. “I wasn’t feeling so hot out there to start off.”
While no one would expect Griffin to look like Rip Hamilton shooting jumpers from 18-20 feet out, no one would expect him to look like Shaq at the free throw line either. There is nothing fluid about his jumper today, particularly in the rigidness of his left elbow, even if his mechanics really aren’t that bad.
Alas, it’s the day of the NBA draft lottery, and a big part of Griffin’s future will revolve around how the ping-pong balls drop that night. “I’m anxious,” he admits in an interview the day before. 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.”
As New York City based trainer Milton Lee offers encouragement and then some very specific technical advice, Griffin begins to emerge from his funk.
The drills shift from deep out on the perimeter into the mid-post area, where Griffin will likely make his living in the NBA. All of a sudden, things start to come together, and we begin to recall what makes Griffin such a tantalizing prospect.
Jabs, rip-throughs, sweeps, jump-stops, floaters, one dribble pull-ups and lightning quick pivot moves. Lee offers instruction, but his pupil understands the nuances of creating his own shot on this part better than most NBA veteran power forwards. Everything comes incredibly natural for him here, as his combination of footwork, quickness and fluidity makes him look like he’s tap-dancing around the paint with the grace of a ballerina. “I almost forgot how athletic he was,” Lee marvels. “His hands are gigantic.”
Unlike his stroke around the college 3-point line, his touch in the paint is phenomenal. He finishes with both hands extremely well and has no problem throwing the ball in the net from extremely difficult angles, often using the glass skillfully. Lee and Griffin move out to the 15-foot range, and the shots continue to drop at a steady rate. This appears to be the range he’s more comfortable in at the moment, although in time, it’s not out of the question he expands his game out further.
“Definitely,” Griffin responds, when asked whether he sees the 18-foot jumper becoming a major part of his repertoire in the future. “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.”
Griffin’s free throw shooting was hit or miss in this workout, which is probably not that much of a surprise considering that he shot just 59% from there this season. He did appear to be very open to Lee’s suggestions, though, appearing to be about as coachable a player as you’ll find, and really got into a nice rhythm from the line later on in the workout.
Although there is only so much you can take away from a one on zero workout, one thing that was extremely obvious right from the start is the competitiveness Griffin brings to the table. He was legitimately irked every single time he missed a shot, really appearing to take things personal, and then letting out all his frustrations on the rim. Despite the fact that he was "going up" against a trainer a foot shorter than him in the post-drills, he was unable to turn off the light switch and not be incredibly physical with the work he did down low, forcing poor Lee to put on Under Armour chest padding during a timeout.
Beyond the flurry of offensive rebounds and dunks, the most common theme from watching Griffin this past season was the poise in which he conducted himself on the court. Off it, you get a similar sense, as he shows little of the detachment or sense of entitlement that you often feel when being around other star players. Really, he couldn’t come off as being any more “normal,” which is the last way you would describe the average lottery pick. It’s exactly these intangibles that should have the Clippers or any other team that drafts him excited about making him the face of their franchise.
“There is a calmness about him,” Lee explains after the workout. “A strength. You really feel confident around him.”