As you know from my tweet which citizen Lawler's Law posted, I was out in Playa Vista at the Los Angeles Clipper's training facility today. It was kind of a strange day - myself, Brad Turner of the Times and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, hanging in the lobby instead of the media room so that we could catch players as they were leaving. We're in that in between week when the players are allowed to use the facility, but it's all on their own. So there's no fixed start or end to practice - so there's no fixed time for media either.
The Clippers staff was very accommodating nonetheless, and helped us get to the players. As I mentioned, it was a pretty good turnout today: Blake Griffin, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Eric Bledsoe, Brian Cook, Willie Warren and Travis Leslie were all there. That's more players at a voluntary workout four days prior to camp than the Celtics, Nuggets or Hornets have on their rosters at the current time.
I'm not going to give you the usual quote driven piece here - Madelyn Burke of the Clippers was there to and you can check out the video of what Foye and Gomes said on Clippers.com, and both Ramona and BT have nice pieces up that focus on Griffin's part. (A funny aside - Foye came through the lobby as we were speaking to Gomes, and he knew we wanted to speak to him also so he was nice enough to wait. I caught a glance of him reading the twitter feed on my laptop while we were waiting! It was a good fit since my tweetdeck is almost entirely NBA stuff!)
I will say this about Blake Griffin - he's one impressive dude. I mean, I've said that about him all along, since his rookie season, but as personable and good with the media as he's always been, he's just getting better and better. You could not really ask for a better "face" for your franchise. He's bright, he's relaxed, he's funny, and he's smart. Gomes is a very bright guy as well, and Foye does fine in his own right. But Griffin is just on a different level. Obviously he's getting a lot of media attention, and he's clearly learning from it. Little did we know he would be leaving us to head to a Subway media event in Westwood!
Given his stature as a player and his overall persona, I'm not surprised that BG is emerging as a leader on the Clippers, even at such a young age. He and Mo Williams were organizing team workouts during the lockout, calling guys who were back east and telling them to get back to town.
He spoke of developing an attitude on the team where it's not OK to lose. It's an interesting statement when you consider his perspective. Think about it - when you're Blake Griffin, your mere presence can ensure very, very few losses from HS through college. In four years of high school, he lost 0, 2, 1 and 3 games. He won four straight state titles, and had a cumulative 106-6 record. In college, his Oklahoma teams went 23-12 and then 30-6. So then, in his first season actually on the court in the NBA, he lost 13 of his first 14 games. He lost more games in his first month in the NBA than he had ever lost in a SEASON of organized basketball. And that season contained as much losing as the rest of his HS and college careers combined.
Now, this general pattern is true for most NBA players, certainly through HS. If they're good enough to eventually play in the NBA, they're probably good enough to single-handedly carry a high school team to a lot of wins and many of them can do that in college as well. But the NBA is a different animal. Maybe you don't ever want it to be OK to lose - but neither can you let every loss consume you, because there's going to be some losing. His comments on the subject were interesting. He's certainly trying to be a major part of a new culture in Clipperland.
What else can I tell you? Not a lot. Suffice it to say that the Clippers organization found David Aldridge's "Blake and the pick and Kaman" trade (or whatever it was) idea as funny as we did. I'm not really sure what DA was thinking on that one. It was absurd - if you propose that to your fantasy league manager you get laughed at. We saw Vinny Del Negro briefly, and he was in high spirits.
Media day is Friday. I'll be back up there then.