An interview with Blake Griffin

SLAM was part of the NBA’s media roundtable with Clips superstar Blake Griffin as he talked about the upcoming All-Star Game, improving his game, Doc’s impact and Steve Ballmer’s energy. Check out the interview as Must see BG delves deep into everything that’s Blake.

Moderator: You’re headed to another All-Star start, voted on by the fans, how does that feel?

BG: It’s always an honor to play in the All-Star Game. It’s a weekend for the fans and give them a chance to see a different lineup and we get to reach out to the people, and also with all the community events and NBA Cares events—it’s a chance to do something fun.

Moderator: What do you make of your performances this season and what has been the highlight so far?

BG: Every season is so much different and you go through your ups and downs, you figure your team out, you get to play against great teams and this year is no exception. Some of the best competition there’s been since I’ve been in the league. Just every night, night in and night out we get to play against the top guys, the top teams. It’s a lot of fun.

Moderator: You were quoted as saying that your defense needs improvement in the New Year, how do you intend on improving that?

BG: I think we just need to be better as far as rotation and things like that. We’ve had kind of a crazy first half as far as not getting to practice a lot because of our schedule and because of the travel. It just takes reps and practice and in the past couple of days we’ve had had a chance to practice and really get in there and work on some things, so I’m excited about where we are and about us moving forward.

Moderator: With regards to practice, the Clippers actually went through December with virtually no practice sessions as there were games almost every day. What sort of effect would that have on the regular season, and why?

BG: It’s just one of those times. Every team goes through times where they’re playing a lot, like almost every other day. For us it’s just to kind of put a stress on things that we need to work on, you know, the ‘small things’. The things that you get to work on in practice a little bit and hopefully moving forward we can take that experience that we had and use it to our advantage when we do have a couple of days, or a week stretch where we don’t get to practice. Hopefully we can be a better team because of it.

Moderator: Your passing is a thing that is steadily improving. Is that something that comes from a desire to be better or more of a by-product of the Clippers offense?

BG: You always have to, as a player, look for areas to improve. Passing is something I take pride in as a player. Our offense and the good pieces that we have on the floor makes it easy for us to move the ball, find the open guy, and we have so many guys that are capable of knocking down shots and finishing on the rim, and it makes it easy.

Moderator: We are seeing more and more alley-oops between you and DJ, how often do you practice these?

BG: Just over the years really, with our offense we kind know exactly where we get the ball, and where we like to get the ball, like I said and we have so many weapons on the court that teams can’t really hone in on one or two guys. They have to be aware of several guys at a time, and the high-lows between DJ and myself is definitely one of our go-to choices.

Moderator: Shooting the ball is something that improved a lot for you as well, but how much do you feel about how the team’s spacing improved with you being able to play further away from the basket?

BG: I think it just opens up the floor a little bit more, any time you have a multiple threats from the outside, teams can’t cog the paint, they can’t load up on certain guys. So, being able to step out and stretch out the floor a little bit would open up our game a little bit, but we still have a lot of work to do in that area.

Moderator: Now that you’re shooting better, what other aspects of the game are you working on?

BG: Any time you add something to your game, you still have to find ways to improve, so I’m still studying the game and trying to find out ways to increase how we use me on the floor. You’re not being complacent, not falling back and floating around the perimeter too much, figuring out when to attack. I’m trying to find that balance between attacking and spotting up and things like that.

Moderator: The Clippers are playing well after starting somewhat slow at the start of this season. What was the key for the resurgence?

BG: I think we just found our groove, found the pace of our offense and started moving the ball, it never really stuck and it just was hopping all over the place. And then defensively we had each other’s backs. We really found our groove as far as rotations and things like that, so really it’s just about the way we play. If we concentrate on playing the right way and playing in a way that makes us successful then we’ll be fine.

Moderator: Over the past couple of seasons, the Clippers have developed some heated rivalries with the Grizzlies, the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder. From the three, who would you consider as your team’s biggest rival?

BG: I’m not sure if I would consider any rivalry. We played the Grizzlies in the Playoffs for two years out of the last four. Maybe you can say that but you basically named three teams that we played in the Playoffs. So I think any time that you place a team in the Playoffs it can be considered a heated match-up, but maybe not a rivalry.

Moderator: There’s a chance that you might face the Golden State Warriors in the Playoffs again. How different are the Warriors this year under Steve Kerr, particularly with Bogut playing more of a passing role at the top of the key?

BG: I think they just settled into a role in how they like to play. Bogut, being the facilitator up top and anchors their defense down low, they really had it rolling with him. Last year, when we played them in the Playoffs he wasn’t even playing, so he’s definitely a key guy for them, he makes them a better team.

Moderator: The Spurs are the defending champions but because of a wave of injuries, they haven’t looked as lethal as they did in last season’s playoffs. Does your team, and you personally, still view San Antonio as the biggest challenge to winning a championship? And other than them, who are the other teams you feel are the biggest threat in the West?

BG: The Spurs, you have to give them respect. They’ve been there multiple years. There’s been times when people wrote them off, said that they couldn’t do them anymore, but they always found a way. So you shouldn’t count them out and give them the respect that they deserve, they’ve earned it. As far as other teams, I mean, you could probably name the top 8,9 teams in the West and say that those are the teams that you fight through to get the Championship. It’s really not just one or two teams this year, it’s a multitude of teams.

Moderator: We have some Australians on the call, and a lot of them would like to know what your relationship with Joe Ingles. How you felt about what kind of player he was? Apparently you and DeAndre would attempt to do an Australian accent.

BG: Yeah, I love Joe, he’s a great player, a great guy. I really enjoyed playing with him in the preseason. He and I hung out quite a bit together and become close. I still talk to him to this day. I’m happy to see him doing well in Utah and getting that chance because he deserves it. As far as the accent goes, I don’t think either of us got that down. I tried hard, every time he talked I just tried to listen as close as possible and mimic what he was saying but it’s not good by any means.

Moderator: Was yours better or was DeAndre’s better.

BG: I will say I think mine is better, but it’s nothing to brag about.

Moderator: How have things changed since Steve Ballmer took over the Clippers?

BG: It’s a different atmosphere, and I think everybody can see that. From top to bottom, I just think it’s a different vibe. He kind of gave the franchise a bit of hope and a little fresh taste of everything. It’s great to have an owner who’s so involved and so enthusiastic about winning. Not just winning, but treating people the right way, and making sure that everybody’s taken care of.

Moderator: Some of our guys want to know, does Steve Ballmer ever run out of energy?

BG: I haven’t seen him, to this day, run out of energy. He’s got that same level of energy that I think everybody else sees, and it felt so fun to be on the court and to hear him. You know, when DeAndre gets a dunk or a big play happens, it’s cool to see your owner there every game screaming just as loud as every other fan.

Moderator: What was it like being coached by your father and playing alongside your brother?

BG: It was a blessing. It was a time that I probably took it for granted. I didn’t realize how awesome it was. My dad was is a huge basketball influence in my life on and off the court. Playing for him and having him around, having him push me harder than maybe another coach would have was a huge blessing for me. Getting to play with my brother was an unreal experience at Oklahoma, in college, it’s some of the funnest times I’ve had in basketball, and I’ll cherish those memories forever.

Moderator: And how about your current coach? How has Doc helped you mature as a person and a player?

BG: Besides basketball knowledge, Doc just brings experience and a sense of leadership. I think the insight to the game he shares and can make it relate to you and put it into words that you can really understand, it’s huge for us. Because he’s been through it, he’s had great seasons, he’s not so great seasons, he’s had injury-playing seasons, he’s been through it all as a coach and a player. Having him and having his experience is a great tool for me.

Moderator: There’s a mischievous side to you, and it’s emerging on videos lately that we’ve all seen online. How do you balance fun and hard work?

BG: You know the videos and fun stuff I get to do and I normally do that in the summer time and my main rule is to never do any of that stuff before I’ve worked out and before I get my work in for the day. Once I’ve done my thing and put in my time in the gym if I have time left over, I do something like that. Basketball has always and will always come first to me but it’s also given me the chance to do really fun things and work with really fun people and its something I’m lucky to have.

Moderator: A lot of people consider you the best Power Forward in the game in the game today. Do you see yourself as the best Power Forward? If not, who do you think would take that mantle?

BG: You know that isn’t my position. I’m not here to rank players, rank divisions, rank any of that I’ll leave that to everybody else. My job is to go out and play basketball and that’s about it.

Media: The Clippers home form is something you have your hats over this past few seasons. Looking ahead this second half of the season how important is that for you guys to climb into the important top 4 seeding?

BG: It’s very important. The home court advantage in the Playoffs is huge. Last year we are fortunate enough to have home court advantage in the first round. It really helped us when it went to 7 games and having that 7 games was huge. For us it’s about how we on the second half of the season and If we play the right way and make that jump. Like I said earlier there are so many great teams in the West. We are all bunched up there, from like 2 – 7 seeds are all around each other by a couple of games. We can definitely make that surge. The most important thing for us is to concentrate on how we are playing and executing and doing the things that we need to take care of.

Media: You said previously that defense is something you guys need to work on. Do you feel that there are any other smaller areas that the team needs to improve on heading in to the Playoffs?

BG: Yeah there’s tons of areas that we can improve on. Sometimes those things come throughout the season. I think right know like I said, defense is the biggest one. I think the pace of our offense, how we move the ball whether we are in transition or not. I think if we keep a good tempo in our offense it really helps us out

Media: You are undoubtedly one of the most exciting players in the league right now. How would you measure your career when you look back in 10 or 20 years from now? And what would be that benchmark and why?

BG: When I look back in my career, hopefully, everybody’s goal is to win a championship and mine is no different. So when I look back in ten years or so, I hope that there’s a championship and more championships. We’re in the running for championship every year. When it comes down to it winning is the biggest thing for me.

Media: How would you like to play for an Olympic gold?

BG: Absolutely I would the chance to play for a gold medal. A couple of years ago, I was on the team but unfortunately, I got injured and missed out the opportunity and experience but hopefully, I will get another chance coming up in 2016. I’d be honored to play and compete against the rest of the world and represent my country.

Media: You got Spencer Hawes over the off-season to your team. How has he been able to ease the workload in the front court with you and DeAndre and also complement in your games?

BG: Spencer is a unique player. Being seven foot and being able to defend and blocks shots and do all those things and stretch the floor. And also at the same time, he can put it on the floor and he can make plays. We look to him to do a lot of things for us and it’s really helped add that depth in the front court that we needed this year. We really missed him when he was injured and now having him back has been great and we’re going to look to him a lot to play heavy minutes and give us a different look down low.

Media: I just want to touch on individually, you spoke about what Doc Rivers has given you guys, from a team’s perspective with the fact that he’s gone through different things as a player and coach, could you pinpoint one specific factor that he helped you with over the last couple of years? Because your game has evolved so much over the last two seasons.

BG: I think it’s the mental battle of basketball and finding ways to be successful and be a great teammate and to help your team even if you’re not scoring the basketball. Whether it’s doing all the little things like screening and passing. It’s just doing your job and I think the thing about Doc, he tells you your role and he tells you to be a star in your role. By him saying, we want you to do this and this, he isn’t hindering you from doing anything. That’s just what the team needs and that’s what we need to concentrate on. The whole idea of being a star in your role is you don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to be too much and try too hard but you really have to master those things that he asks you to do and I think that it simplifies the game for everybody.

Media: I know it’s still early in your career but is staying with one franchise, in this case Los Angeles Clippers is something that you want to have by the time you retire?

BG: Yeah I love playing for Los Angeles, I love playing for the Clippers. I proudly represent them. But as you know, basketball is one of those things that is sometimes out of your control. I love the opportunity to play for one franchise and play for this franchise and play for these fans and for this city for my career.

Media: How does it feel to be a part of the Jordan brand, and how did the partnership come about? Did MJ actually recruit you?

BG: Being a part of the Jordan brand for me was special just because I grew up watching him play, grew up wearing Jordans. He had such a huge impact on the game and he still does. The Jordan brand, I’ve always viewed it as a unique and elite group of athletes, so I’m very proud to be wearing Jordans. It’s been fun to be a part of that family and to represent the brand.

Media: You’ve had some physical encounters with Andrew Bogut over the years, and in that Christmas game, of course a year ago. Is there any bad blood there or is it just you guys just being competitive, or do you think he purposely tries to get under your skin?

BG: I couldn’t tell you what his motives are or anything like that. But you know, those games are always heated. There’s a strong competition between the two of us, you know. Being in the same state, being in the same division, playing each other four times a year, playing each other in the Playoffs, it’s really heightened that. I wouldn’t say bad blood, but I definitely think every time we play that it’s going to be competitive, it’s going to be physical.

Media: Would you prefer that when it gets to the Playoffs that he’s healthy and that the Golden State Warriors are at their best?

BG: Oh yeah, absolutely. You always want to play teams when they’re firing on full throttle. As a team, we don’t hide from anybody, and personally I don’t hide from anybody. You never wish for anybody or any team to deal with injuries.

Media: You mentioned earlier that you don’t want to rank any player in any position, but with all the great power forwards in the league, who’s the hardest matchup for you?

BG: Oh man, there’s a lot of tough matchups. In the West, guys like LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis, Dirk [Nowtizki], guys like that. And in the East, there’s Kevin Love, Paul Millsap—for me the list goes on and on, you can’t really overlook anybody, but those are some of the tough matchups to go against at the power forward spot.

Media: The Clippers was the weaker team in Los Angeles compared to the Lakers. You were part of the group of players that have been instrumental in making the Clippers such a strong team, and the Clippers have exceeded the Lakers’ performance in the past few seasons. How does it feel?

BG: When I first got to the Clippers, that rivalry that matchup was definitely very one-sided. Just to be a part of it—the change of the franchise— you’re not only matching up head to head with the Lakers, but just being a franchise that’s capable of winning and being in the Playoffs year in and year out, I’m proud to be a part of that. There’s nothing better than being a part of something bigger than just yourself. You know, the Lakers will always be the Lakers, and they have tons of history and tons of championships and all that. We’re not trying to take any of that away, we’re just trying to make a name for ourselves and I’m proud to be a part of this era of Clippers basketball.