GRIFFIN JOINS BARKLEY & ABDUL-JABBAR WITH RARE MILESTONE
Numbers in sports are not always truthful. If nothing else, they don’t tell the entire story.
Blake Griffin, though, has put up such prolific numbers in the first four seasons of his career that they just might explain everything we need to know about him.
On Monday night, Griffin became just the third player in NBA history to tally 6,000 points, 3,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists before the end of his fourth season while shooting 50.0 percent or better. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley, Blake Griffin and that’s it.
Griffin grabbed his 3,000th board against the Warriors with 14.9 seconds remaining in the second quarter. He had accumulated enough points and assists at earlier stages of the season.
“I played against Kareem and Charles and they are completely different [than Griffin],” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “If three guys could be more different those three… there is not anything that is similar about any of them. Which is amazing and it’s another lesson that you can get things and do things similar in different ways.”
Griffin has done so by expanding his game, improving year-to-year. The most drastic improvement this season has been the consistency and confidence in which Griffin has shot from the perimeter. He’s shooting 45.4 percent (54-for-110) from 16-19 feet, the best percentage of his career.
“I think [Griffin’s] game has stepped up in terms of his consistency in his shooting,” Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “His ability to go up and down the court and not just catch lob dunks. That’s what great players do. They improve their game and that’s what allows these guys to get to the next level.”
Hornacek was a contemporary of Barkley, and was actually traded to Philadelphia from the Suns in exchange for Barkley in 1992. He said there are some comparisons between Griffin and the Hall of Famer best known as the “Round Mound of Rebound."
“They’re obviously big strong guys that get out in the open court,” Hornacek added. “They’re like freight trains in that you can’t do much with them. They’re athletic enough that they can avoid a charge and they’re strong enough that if you bump them a little bit they are still able to get a dunk or a layup.”
But as Rivers alluded, too, the comparisons likely end there. Abdul-Jabbar was the league’s greatest scorer, a giant among men at times. Barkley was a tenacious bully, skilled yet undersized for a power forward. Griffin is neither of them. He is part all-time great athlete, part distributor and merely scratching the surface as a shooter.
Teammate Ryan Hollins, who has played with Griffin for two seasons, said Griffin’s desire to be great separates him from most of his contemporaries.
“He could so easily be content with what he has right now, but he wants more,” Hollins said. “That’s what stands out to me. He’s probably going to hear [about the milestone] and say, ‘Thank you, I appreciate it’ and move on.
“I think he’s going to hear that stat, he’s going to appreciate it, but I don’t think he’s going to care. Not in the sense that he doesn’t respect it, but his eyes are set so far past that. That’s what I respect about him, that he wants to execute or he wants those numbers in the Playoffs or he wants those accolades later on down the line.”
Warriors head coach Mark Jackson echoed Hollins: “It’s saying a lot” that Griffin’s fourth season has been his finest considering “he’s made an impact on this league since day one.”
When told about the milestone, Rivers was in a bit of disbelief, chuckling before saying, “It just tells you how good Blake is. He’s awful young to be reaching milestones.”
Griffin’s 24 and only two others have been in the same company. Those are numbers that say something extraordinary.