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Hyping Blake Griffin - The Second Greatest Sports Column Ever

So, who knew the Orange County Register still existed? 

Since they killed their Clippers beat at the end of the 2007-2008 season you can probably count on one hand the number of Clippers stories they've run. I certainly haven't bothered to check the Register for years now.

So imagine my surprise that a column on Blake Griffin appeared today. However, upon reading, it was pretty obvious that the paper would be better off eschewing Clipper subjects completely. Apparently by not covering the team for two years, they just don't know anything at all about them now.

The hyperbole in the column is one thing. Columnist Earl Bloom doesn't pull any punches, stating right there in the headline "Blake Griffin is the second-best player in L.A." Now, there's a certain quaintness about the inadequacy of overhyping Griffin in this manner. Bloom wants to go way out on an exaggerated limb to get attention, but because of the importance of Kobe Bryant in town, he's forced to stoop to 'second-best', as if anyone wants to be second-best. It is a tad reminiscent of the Clipper-deprecating tag line on this here blog.

Then there's the matter that many very serious observers of the sport actually consider Pau Gasol better than Kobe Bryant. His PER was higher last year, after all.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for hyping Blake Griffin. I am the guy who's pushing for Blake Superior as his nom de guerre after all. But to say that Griffin, who has yet to play an NBA basketball game, is better than a guy who has been 3rd Team All Pro for two consecutive seasons, is pretty silly. There are all kinds of superlatives you could get away with in comparing Griffin to Gasol: more exciting, more potential, I'd even except 'will be better'. But to say that he's already better, right now, is patently absurd. (It's also another case of how underappreciated Gasol continues to be, though compared to the years he toiled in anonymity in Tennessee he's obviously regarded pretty highly now.)

Trey Kerby, late of Ball Don't Lie and now of The Basketball Jones, lampooned Bloom's overwrought comparisons masterfully in a post yesterday (hat tip to Ciizen vaughtfromhisspot for posting the link):

So yeah, Blake Griffin is kind of a big deal. Rookie of the Year is basically a given. He’s really shooting for Rookie of the Forever, which he’ll win easily.

Bloom's comparisons of Griffin to Karl Malone and Hakeem Olajuwon don't even make much sense. Malone is the second leading scorer in NBA history in large part because of a deadly midrange game, which is easily the weakest part of Griffin's repertoire right now, and it's not like Malone was ever a high-flyer. And Olajuwon? Was he the gold-standard of effort, steals and deflections for NBA bigs? It just seems like a random hall of fame name dropped into the article.

And then there's the Clipper-specific inaccuracies in the article:

Eric Gordon is also an emerging star, and his vastly improved game of last season progressed even further with his Team USA duties.

Eric Gordon's vastly improved game of last season? Gordon's second season in the league was in most ways uncannily the same as his first season, causing mainly disappointment in actual Clipper watchers that he didn't progress. His per 36 averages from his first two seasons are within one tenth of each other in most statistical categories, including points, assists, total rebounds, defensive rebounds, turnovers and free throw attempts. Unfortunately, all of his shooting percentages were worse. There is no way anyone could possibly characterize last season as 'vastly superior' for Gordon, and only the most cursory review of the stats would suffice to know better.

Or how about this one, going back to Clippers history? In comparing Blake Griffin's rookie season to Danny Manning's, Bloom singles out the supposed importance of Norm Nixon:

Manning was surrounded by fellow rookies and second-year men when he broke in. Norm Nixon provided veteran leadership, but he was coming off devastating injuries, and Manning's first season would be Nixon's last.

Norm Nixon?  Nixon had missed the entirety of not one but TWO consecutive NBA seasons when Manning was a rookie. He was 33 years old, and returning from a major knee injury AND a ruptured Achilles tendon. The fact that he played at all was remarkable. It's undoubtedly true that Griffin has a better supporting cast than Manning did in 1988, but Norm Nixon is a bizarre name to dwell on.

It's great that Blake Griffin is getting so much attention, and I believe that he will justify much of it. Milph have been heaping it on pretty thick themselves, but they usually use more nebulous superlatives like "the most exciting rookie since LeBron" or "the most athletic player in LA", things like that. Besides, they're the Clippers announcers, they're supposed to hype the players.

But let's put the "M-V-P" chants and the "better than Pau Gasol" talk on the back burner for awhile. I mean, at least until he's played his first game.