When forward Blake Griffin first stepped on the court he instantly made the Los Angeles Clippers barbershop gospel. His once in a generation athleticism was undeniable, leading him to unanimous rookie of the year honors. The Clippers may not have been the hottest ticket in town, but they were the best show. Griffin was fast becoming the face of the franchise and the NBA. As a rookie he was being compared to the greatest power forwards to ever play in the league, with the assumption that his game would evolve.
Yet, after another playoff no-show, the Clippers organization added point guard Chris Paul to assist in the momentum that Griffin created in Los Angeles. The signing of Paul changed the culture of the organization, both on the floor and in the locker room. Griffin went from the emerging face of the franchise to just another talented member of “Lob City”, while Paul was credited for leading the team to consecutive playoff appearances.
Paul and Griffin appeared to be the perfect complement. But as Paul met expectations, Griffin failed to live up his. The Staple Center’s young thoroughbred was gaining the reputation as a one trick pony among defenses around the league. The former number one pick was still a rim storm waiting to happen, but his hesitation to shoot the ball made him predictable and a lane liability.
It’s not uncommon for young players to struggle with a jump shot, but by the end of 2012-2013 season, whispers of Griffin’s toughness started to amplify. Character assassins label the former University of Oklahoma Sooner as soft. The pile-on moniker can be devastating to one’s brand in a league populated with young macho millionaires. Former teammate, Chauncy Billups stated, “Blake is not soft, he’s a nice guy” — the proverbial thin line.
Paul’s swag, play, and on-court brash is deserving of the reputation as the Clippers’ “Little General”. To many, he defines toughness. Griffin is not soft. Just ask any rim around the league. He’s simply a 24 year old athletic phenom attempting to refine his game and redefine his role on a team that has a foot in the door of greatness, looking to knock on the door of an NBA championship.
ChristopherBrown is an NBA writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twiterr @whatrockschris. Like him on Facebook.