The PR folks representing NBA-India were kind enough to share with us the Q&A transcript of LA Clippers’ star forward Blake Griffin. So read and enjoy as Griffin discusses his growth over the years, playing for the Clippers’ franchise, his toughest opponents, getting signed by the Air Jordan brand and a whole lot more.
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 of 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 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, 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.