So, um... this is weird. The Clippers are playing without Blake Griffin tonight.
Okay—that’s not really that weird. Blake missed 47 games two years ago, 21 games last year, and he missed 15 consecutive games earlier this season with a knee injury. The Clippers are a hell of a lot better when Blake Griffin plays, but they certainly aren’t lost without him on the floor.
What’s weirder is that he won’t be in the locker room, or on the roster, for the first time since the 2009 season tipped off. Last night, the Clippers shocked the league—and this blogger—by trading Blake, possibly the most prolific star in Clippers history, to the Detroit Pistons. The return package (Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, a 2018 first round pick, and a 2019 second round pick) is decent but isn’t exactly a massive return.
But, just like that, Blake is gone, and his nine years, 504 games, and 10,800 points are final marks instead of works in progress towards franchise records. And, just like that, the Clippers have new players to integrate. With the deal being officially announced late Monday night, it’s unclear if Harris, Bradley, and Marjanovic will be able to suit up for the Clippers tonight against the Blazers. If they are able to play, it’s possible that both Bradley and Harris could enter the starting lineup immediately, with Bradley replacing two-way contract player Tyrone Wallace at shooting guard and Harris filling the void Griffin leaves at power forward. The Clippers will also likely return Danilo Gallinari at small forward, where he could supplant Wesley Johnson. It’s also worth noting that Bradley didn’t play in the Pistons’ last game with a sore hamstring, so even if the Clippers plan on keeping him, he could miss the next couple of games.
The NBA schedule doesn’t stop. It doesn’t give you a break when you have injuries, and you can’t reschedule a game because a trade just went down. With so much talk of Blake’s past and the team’s future, it’s hard to bring focus back to the present, where the Clippers are fighting for a Western Conference playoff spot, currently 25-24, a half-game behind the Denver Nuggets for the 8th seed and two games behind the Portland Trail Blazers, tonight’s opponent, for the 7th seed.
But here they are. The team will have shoot around tomorrow morning at their training facility in Playa Vista, and the players will arrive at STAPLES Center for pre-game workouts in the afternoon. Doc Rivers will speak to the press at 5:45 PM, a crowd will file into the arena, and a referee will throw up a jump ball at 7:45 PM. The Clippers will play 48 minutes of basketball tomorrow night, and then they’ll do it 32 more times between now and April 11th. It won’t be quite the same—but in a lot of ways, it’ll be exactly the same as it always was, and always will be, long before Blake Griffin and long after him.
There aren’t very many other words to type about this game that matter, all things considered.