The scrutiny Blake Griffin had to endure and the hard fouls he was forced to absorb will pale in comparison to what awaits the L.A. Clipper.
The NBA’s second season will begin this weekend, a time when legacies are made, when players get exposed, when reputations are formed.
No player will be under the microscope more than Griffin, no player worth watching than this second-year dunk machine who has taken more shots to his body in recent weeks than he’s taken shots from the field.
All the predictable storylines, ranging from LeBron James’ ability to rebound from last year’s final flop, the legitimacy of Dallas’ title defence, the longevity of Boston’s run, whether San Antonio can summon one more championship bid to Kobe Bryant’s pursuit of that elusive sixth ring are each compelling, but Griffin’s story will be the exception.
The basketball world will now witness just how mentally and physically tough Griffin is in a setting where no player is exempt.
“I feel like people are intentionally trying to hurt him,” Clippers teammate and frontcourt running mate DeAndre Jordan said. “It’ll all come back around.”
Perhaps it will, but chances are pretty good that it won’t because Griffin has yet to show that killer instinct so necessary in the playoffs.
How he reacts to the additional pounding, how he comes up in late-game situations, how he’s able to impose his will in games will all be scrutinized and analyzed.
Privately, and occasionally aired publicly, coaches have complained that Griffin gets preferential treatment given his daily highlight reels.
On more than a few times, players have groused that his poster dunks amount to nothing more than grandstanding and when someone takes umbrage, Griffin reacts by airing his displeasure.
It all came to a head during L.A.’s visit to Phoenix, where Robin Lopez committed a flagrant foul on Griffin with 6:14 to play, a play that left Griffin with a sore neck and the Clippers in dismay.
“I thought it was dirty,’’ Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He is trying to take him down. The league has got to do something to protect this kid.
“We can only get so many technical fouls. We can only do so many things and guys are taking shots at him. It is getting bad.’’
As bad as it was, it threatens to get worse the deeper the Clippers go this post-season.
In a different era, Griffin would have been a target every night, especially when he hovered over a beleaguered foe following one of his now-famous facials.
“I was just going for the ball,’’ claimed Lopez. “He got by me and I was just trying to go for the ball and he got a bit farther and I tried to go for his arms.
“It was what it was. It is my job to protect the rim. I tried to go for his arms.”
In the star-driven NBA, stars, naturally, are treated by different standards.
DeMarcus Cousins was slapped with a $25,000 fine when Sacramento’s starting centre claimed officials “babied’’ Griffin.
Kings head coach Keith Smart avoided the wrath of the NBA when reporters posed the question.
“You didn’t ask me that question, did you?” Smart said when asked if Griffin is babied by the zebras. “Did you see what happened to my big man?
“My wife would be really upset if I answered that question.”
AROUND THE RIM
More surgery awaits Golden State point guard Stephen Curry, a frequent visitor to the ACC when his dad Dell was coming off screens and burying shots for the Raptors. There was hope Curry could avoid his second surgery on his right ankle ... The Warriors will also see centre Andrew Bogut go under the knife, a procedure that all but eliminates the big from playing for his native Australia at this year’s London Olympics ... Nothing is etched in stone, other than the obvious fact that Anthony Davis is the consensus No. 1 pick in this June’s draft. After the No. 1 slot, there’s considerable debate as to whether Kentucky teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Thomas Robinson of Kansas is the next best player available. If the Raptors get lucky and win next month’s lottery, expect the Andrea Bargnani trade rumours to run rampant. The dilemma is what would Bargnani fetch ... In a wide-ranging interview with the New York Times, former Knicks executive Donnie Walsh heaped praise on New York’s interim GM, Glen Grunwald, whom many in Toronto have followed closely given Grunwald’s ties to the city and the Raptors. “I think he’s done a fantastic job,” Walsh told the newspaper. “I thought he would, but I think he’s done better than that.” Perhaps well enough to earn a full-time gig.