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What does Blake Griffin's injury and another early playoff exit mean for the LA Clippers? And for Griffin’s future?
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David Aldridge:I may be in the minority on this, but I just don't see Griffin leaving town any time soon. I just think he's got a really great life -- he's grounded, with his kids, he has a thriving life outside of basketball and he's a star player in Los Angeles, a city he seems to love. Why would he leave that? From everything I've read and asked, he should be back from the plantar plate injury/surgery before the start of next season. And why would the Clips walk away from an All-Star who's one of the best at his position? As long as Chris Paul is returning, and everyone on NBA Earth seems to think that's a done deal, I can't see Griffin walking. As far as the Clips, look, a Carmelo Anthony deal is always in their back pocket when and if 'Melo gives them the green light to proceed. That's still the logical play. They'll probably lose J.J. Redick in free agency, but if the New York Knicks and Phil Jackson are determined to move Anthony and are willing to take an Austin Rivers-Jamal Crawford dominant deal, a foursome of Paul, 'Melo, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan would be formidable.
Steve Aschburner: Griffin’s injury sort of excuses the early exit, which means owner Steve Ballmer probably will madly overspend to keep the core of this team together. Of course, I figured Ballmer to do that anyway, given the current NBA pecking order in Los Angeles that has his team ahead of the Lakers in talent, competitiveness and glitz. Why would he willingly take a step backwards from his and his team's current status within Staples Center? Maybe J.J. Redick gets sacrificed to the cap-and-tax gods, but my hunch is the rest of them -- including Doc Rivers -- are back and the eternal search for a viable small forward grinds on.
Fran Blinebury: It probably means Griffin is gone. The Clippers have to do something to shake things up and Blake does seem to have settled into something of rut, not clearly getting better over the past several seasons. Maybe he needs a new team, a new setting a new coach’s voice in his ear. The Clips keep Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan and find another third piece. Hello, Carmelo?
Scott Howard-Cooper: This is a different kind of early playoff exit because now the players have as much of a voice as management on whether the roster of capable of a championship. J.J. Redick will be a free agent. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul can be. The core of a 51-win team undoubtedly sees a lot of positives that may not exist elsewhere, and just as obviously sees the dollars signs. But maybe there have been enough seasons of disappointment that one among the three decides that if the ring really is the thing, it’s just not going to happen there. The injury will not impact Griffin’s future. It’s about the big picture for everyone now, not a toe surgery.
Shaun Powell: The Clippers have been hurt by bad luck for most of their early exits; Blake and Chris Paul missed last year's first round and Griffin this year; so they get a pass on that. And the Clippers really don't have much choice, if they want to remain a 50-win team, but re-sign Griffin. Players who can give 20 and 8 each night aren't easy to find. Besides, money shouldn't be an issue; owner Steve Ballmer isn't in danger of becoming a millionaire.
John Schuhmann: The Clippers can shake things up and raise their ceiling by putting more shooting, defense, depth and versatility around Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan. They're the two stars that fit best together and you can build both a top-10 offense and a top-10 defense around that pair. The problem is that the best way to do that would have been to trade Griffin before the end of this season, when he has an early termination option. If he leaves in free agency, the Clippers still don't have enough flexibility under the salary cap to add multiple pieces, and Griffin would likely have little incentive to agree to a sign-and-trade deal.
Sekou Smith: Blake Griffin's injury and the early playoff exit mean we're in for another miserable offseason in LA and continued questions about the inevitable break up of the core group the Clippers have assembled. But I would caution the Clippers -- and any team that's traveled from NBA purgatory (in a sense) to being a playoff team -- to be careful with your next step. Griffin has to remain in the plans for the foreseeable future. This notion that you can blow up a consistent 50-win team and simply rebuild it on the fly is a myth. And when you have All-Star and superstar talent, you don't give up on it so easily. Yes, there have been horrible disappointments and simply disastrous luck involved. But a teardown and fingers-crossed-this-gets-better-rebuild is not the answer.
Ian Thomsen: The Clippers’ frustrations have everything to do with their injuries. They’ve never had an extended chance to fully explore what they can do together because of the succession of injuries to Griffin (as well as to Chris Paul) that have killed off their hopes. And yet what better option do they have than to reinvest in both players? If they "blow it up," they will do so knowing that they’re unlikely to replace Paul and Griffin with equal talent. The only option that gives them a chance is to re-sign Paul and Griffin -- if both players are willing -- and then hope for better health next year.
Lang Whitaker: Have they tried bringing in a shaman? Or maybe they can find some of Phil Jackson's leftover sage leaves in the Staples Center and burn some of those? I can't remember seeing a team with such tough luck when it comes to keeping its stars healthy. As far as Blake's future, maybe one of these years it all just works out and everyone stays healthy for a postseason run? It seems like ages ago, but the first few weeks of the season, the Clippers were best team in the NBA. Hopefully they can find that groove again.