It may have taken nearly a year, but Blake Griffin finally returned to Staples Center against the Clippers.
Blake Griffin’s return was everything an NBA fan could want. There was a near altercation, a snubbing of Steve Ballmer’s handshake pregame, a hard-fought basketball game, and a ridiculous revenge performance. While it still may be a weird sight for Clipper fans to see their former favorite player return as opposition, it’s the reality. Griffin’s introduction and tribute video were easily the loudest Clippers fans cheered all day.
Griffin addressed Ballmer’s snubbing post-game, denying any purposeful ill-will.
Blake Griffin on leaving Steve Ballmer hanging: "For 9 years now, I make sure there's a path and I take off running to the locker room. I don't change that for anybody. To tweet out something like that, is kind of bullshit." #Clippers #Pistons pic.twitter.com/vOp6Dn1plz— Farbod Esnaashari ✪ (@Farbod_E) January 13, 2019
“For 9 years now, as soon as I’m done doing my pregame shooting, I make sure there’s a path and I take off running to the locker room. A lot of you know that, and a lot of you have been here for a long time. A lot of you have seen me do that before. So, I don’t change that for anybody. To tweet out something like that, is kind of bullshit. That’s what it was, plain and simple. It wasn’t anything planned. Every single game I’ve done this, for I don’t know how long.” - Blake Griffin
Griffin finished the game with a vengeance, putting up 44 points (56% shooting), 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. While he’s typically focused pregame, there was an extra level of focus today, and it showed in his performance. It seemed like the game was going to inevitably get chippy, and that’s what happened in the closing seconds; Blake Griffin and Patrick Beverley had to be separated from each other.
“I think he thought I was gonna go dunk that last one but I wasn’t,” Griffin said. “I’ve known Pat since college so it’s nothing.”
Griffin’s return was long overdue, and it was a moment he was glad to get out of the way. He appreciated the video tributes, the appreciation from the fans, but he just wants to move on.
“Next time we come here, it won’t be the same, obviously,” Griffin said. “It’s nice to get that game over. I kind of compare it to the first game of the year. There’s such a big hype leading up to it, and once it’s done you’ve got to play 81 more.”
It’s time to move on for the Clippers now too. The entire chapter of Lob City is officially closed, and what awaits next season will be something new and exciting.