It came up twice the last couple of days. First, in one of the Dwight Howard-to-the-Clippers threads and then... somewhere else in a discussion about Chris Paul: Should you have the power of an NBA general manager, given the state of the current Los Angeles Clipper roster, and ignoring stuff like contract size, length, and the salary cap... would you trade your young, all-star but not-quite-a-superstar power forward Blake Griffin? Rest assured you'd get like-value back... something on the order of multiple All Star already-a-superstar Dwight Howard. Would you make that trade?
Of course we had a similar conundrum present itself recently in the Chris Paul trade, where we (and by we I mean the Clippers) gave up the promising, not-yet-an All Star wing, Eric Gordon, in a package that brought back multiple All Star superstar point guard Chris Paul. I don't think I'm only speaking for myself when I say that that trade was a rather painful one. I've written at length about this before, but Eric Gordon is a wonderful player, the first player on the Clipper roster who was able to assuage some of our more painful psychic wounds: the brutal injury to a promising young point guard, the middle-of-the-night abandonment by a certain power forward (who's name many of still refuse to speak aloud).
I was shocked by the Gordon trade. It made me question the vision and values of the front office, it made me question the vaguely inhuman way sports business is done. Eric Gordon was our quiet kid brother, remarkably talented, filled with potential, and before he'd had a chance to prove himself we traded him away. We traded our brother.
Interestingly, I didn't feel that way about the other people who were traded along with Gordon. There was that Alfonso Amino guy... see, I can't even remember his name. And there was Chris Kaman, a lovable, talented doofus who was never going to be what we thought he could be. But Eric Gordon was, is, different, and it was painful to send him away.
But he's gone, and we're coping, and, truthfully, the new guy seems to have some merit. From our admittedly limited point-of-view, Chris Paul seems exactly what we needed. He's a vocal leader on and offer the court, and while he might not be quite as physically talented as he once was, but he's almost psychically heady on the court. His "basketball IQ" is simply off the charts. To me, he might be the equivalent of Magic Johnson or Oscar Robertson, guys who seem to almost invent the game as they moved the ball up the floor.
It's made me feel a lot better. Enough so that I've moved off Gordon. I don't even scan the boxscores to check his stats like I did the first few days after the trade... of course that might be a false measure of my affection, since Gordon is injured and hasn't actually played in two weeks... and maybe my feelings about Gordon and his role with the Clippers are muted by the realization that Gordon's injury history is dismal... and that that history might, let's hope not, continue.
The point is, I, we will get over Eric Gordon. It's already happening.
I don't want anyone to think I'm soft or look at the Clipper roster with too much affection. I am baffled by some Clipper fan's current expectations of certain Clipper players... such as the rookies, unproven second-round picks, who I believe will probably be out of the NBA in a year or two, or even Erik Bledsoe, an unfortunate tweener who exhibits speed and athleticism and almost nothing else. Honestly? I'd let these guys go in a heartbeat.
So, when the question, "Would-you-trade-Blake-Griffin-for-Dwight Howard?" was asked, my emotional reaction felt both predictable and familiar. Emotionally, my answer was a solid, simple, "That's the stupidest question I've ever heard," and the answer is simply, an emphatic, "No".
Then I calmed down and I tried to look at the picture from some distance. Dwight Howard is the best center in the game. He's still young, he's been an All Star at least thirty times, he's all-world, and his qualifications and his resume outshine Blake Griffin's and history by a factor of at least ten to one, maybe more.
I tried. I tried hard to make it all fit in my brain. I tried to be one of those clever basketball guys who are so clear and pragmatic that they know that the value coming in is so clearly superior to the value going out that there is no question what to do. Goodbye Blake Griffin, hello Dwight Howard.
Before you ask the next question, I'm going to give you the answer: Substitute any name you like for Dwight Howard, substitute Dwayne Wade or LeBron James, it doesn't matter to me, because I've already arrived at my conclusion, I have my answer and it is ironclad: I would not trade Blake Griffin for anyone. Not for anyone.
Why? It's partly timing I suppose. Griffin arrived at a critical moment in Clipper history. The team was bad but had some hope, Eric Gordon brought a flashlight, a big one, and we wanted him to lead us out of the muck and mire of terribleness. Then Blake Griffin showed up and it took a season longer than we hoped, but he didn't just have a flashlight, he had a big searchlight. And he heaved it up on his shoulders and he picked out a direction and he said, "I think it's over here, let's go this way."
And he shone the light and we followed. But still we worried. What would happen when Blake discovered the truth? How would he be affected by the fact that the Clippers (us) suck, and have sucked forever? To avoid dissapointment we confronted Mr. Griffin and we said, "Are you aware that we're lepers, that we're accursed, that people laugh at us, mock us, and abandon us at the first opportunity? Do you know, Blake Griffin, who we are?"
And Blake Griffin didn't say anything messianic or biblical, he just said, "I really don't care about any of that. Dudes, let's just get out of this swamp."
I love him for his incredibly confidence, for his undying motor, for his extraordinary drive. It's weird I know. I am old (I am what my musician friends call, a "geezer"), it is strange for me to find myself admiring, almost worshipping, a 23 year-old kid from Oklahoma. But that's how I feel.
So, go ahead, ask me again. Ask the question: "Would you trade Blake Griffin for-"
"--No. Not for anyone. Let me be one hundred percent clear on this. Not for anyone."