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Blake Griffin completed his second NBA season five weeks ago, but in some ways it seems as though he's been putting up historic numbers much longer.
In 148 regular season games, Griffin has averaged better than 21 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists. He's in a class with the first two years of all-time greats David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, and Tim Duncan. His 103 double-doubles in two seasons are the fourth-highest since 1986-87. He was the only player in the league in 2011-12 to score more than 20 points with 10.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists and only Dwight Howard and Griffin went for 20 and 10 and shot better than 54% from the floor.
Gallery | Blake Griffin: 2011-12 Season
Take Griffin's 2011-12 season, a whirlwind in which he appeared in all 77 games for the Clippers, including his final six playoff games with a left knee injury that left him hobbled. His points per game and rebounding numbers slightly declined from his rookie year. However, the Clippers achieved the best winning percentage in franchise history with only their second playoff series victory since arriving in Los Angeles in 1984, and Griffin was selected second team All-NBA.
There were the infamous dunks over Kendrick Perkins and Pau Gasol; the acrobatic moves to the rim in which would spin off a defender draw contact and finish while tumbling to the floor. He was tough, explosive, and often dominant.
In Game 3 of the Clippers' series against the Spurs, he threw in 14 first quarter points, outscoring San Antonio on his own. He wound up with 28 points and 16 rebounds. The following night, when the Clippers' season ultimately ended, the lasting image was a bearded Griffin with a bandage covering four stitches from where his tooth went through his upper lip following a second-quarter collision with Manu Ginobili.
As Griffin sat at the dais he was asked if there was any solace in knowing they lost to what many believed was the "best team on the planet at the moment."
Griffin's summer work has already started. He begins training with USA Basketball on July 5 in Las Vegas, with the Olympic camp lasting through July 12 and the basketball portion of the London Games beginning 16 days later. With 16 players attempting to fill out 12 slots on the roster, Griffin's chances of making the squad are increasingly high and it's something Clippers personnel believes would be tremendous for Griffin's growth as a player.
"Blake will go really, really hard through the Olympics and then take off until about early September," Severns said. "I think the best thing that could happen for him would be the Olympic experience. If he were able to make USA Basketball, which we think he has a good chance to do, it would really help his defense because the guys that are on that team are going to hold him accountable defensively."
Offensively, Severns said, the team is looking for Griffin to improve his free throw shooting, which dipped to 52.1% last season, more than 12% worse than his rookie year. Part of that will be working with a shooting coach, which according to Severns will allow Griffin to "hear one voice as far as his shooting."
"We've obviously got to improve his free throw shooting," Severn said. "We've got to get him more comfortable with his mid-range jump shot and refine and develop his low post, back-to-the-basket game."
Griffin added: "I'm doing a lot of footwork stuff and I'm doing a lot of stuff on the move and making sure I catch it and make a move or catch it going to the goal."
In Severns' mind that's one of the best things about the Clippers' young superstar: he knows exactly what he needs to do to get better.
"I want to make sure that going into training camp back here [in Los Angeles] that I'm in the best shape possible," Griffin said. "I'm going to work on the things I need to work on and put myself in a position to improve throughout [next] season."
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