LONDON CALLING
Eric Patten | 7/7/12


Press Release:
  • USA Basketball Nominees Announced
  • The Olympic experience is just beginning for Blake Griffin.

    The two-time All-Star Saturday was named to United States' Men's National team 12-man roster for the Summer Games in London, something Griffin and the Clippers hoped would come to fruition since the conclusion of the NBA season.

    "Really just the experience, being around those guys and getting to play with those guys," Griffin said when asked what he was looking forward to most about participating with Team USA. "Trying to learn from the guys who have been playing in this league for a long time."

    Assistant Coach for Player Development Dave Severns talked about what making the team could do to bolster Griffin's game. "It's really going to help his defense and help his leadership," he said. "Being there with Chris [Paul] and Kobe [Bryant] and Lebron [James] and Kevin [Durant] and those guys, we're really hoping that will happen for him."

    Paul, who won a gold medal with Team USA in the 2008 Summer Games, was named to the team for the second time. The superstar point guard was virtually a lock to make the squad when camp opened in Las Vegas Friday, but Griffin's inclusion was less certain.

    Still, Griffin, who will wear jersey No. 14, said all along he would do what was necessary to fit into a role with Team USA that will vary depending on matchups.

    "[I want to] just to go in and play hard and try to improve different aspects of my game," Griffin said. "You know, on that team my main role will be playing defense, hitting open shots, rebounding, stuff like that. Your role changes with each team you're on and what different guys there are.

    "A lot of times guys don't get to play basketball at this high of a level all summer, so using that to my advantage and trying to improve different aspects of my game and being able to do that in game situations can't really get any better than that."

    Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski expanded on what he expected from Griffin during Saturday's selection show on NBA TV.

    "We're going to use him at the 5," the legendary Duke leader said. "His physicality, his strength, his ability to guard big men is going to be a key for us. He can run the court, he's all over the boards, and I'm not sure there's a better finisher in the game today than Blake."

    Griffin's exploits as a finisher have been well documented, carrying over to the conclusion of practice Saturday when several YouTube videos surfaced of him throwing down a tomahawk dunk that he ricocheted off a wall behind the basket.

    The selection to Team USA is a culmination of sorts for the 23-year-old star. He was voted an All-Star starter for the first time in February, advanced to the second round of the playoffs, and was named second team All-NBA. Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro believes it will only help Griffin improve.

    "I think being around that environment and that work ethic, just being around that environment and seeing how guys work at the craft is great," Del Negro said. "Not only offensively, but defensively, on and off the court that camaraderie and chemistry that you build. I think if you talk to guys who have been on those teams and been around those teams there's no question those guys come back as better."

    Del Negro witnessed that ascension first-hand in his debut season with the Clippers when shooting guard Eric Gordon returned with a newfound aggressiveness and assertiveness, following a gold medal winning performance with Team USA at the 2010 World Championships. On Saturday, Gordon was one of three players who did not make the 2012 squad. Rudy Gay and rookie Anthony Davis were also not named to the roster.

    While Griffin has been a part of the USA basketball program since he was a teenager, he's never played an international game. With a variety of rule differences between the NBA and Olympic competition, it's something Griffin admitted he'll have to pick up as he goes along.

    Part of the learning process has already started.

    Griffin said he's talked to several players, including Paul, who have played on previous Olympic teams. "They talked about the gold medal game, having the pride in playing for your country and playing for something much bigger than yourself."

    Paul said he told Griffin to "savor it."

    "I think the thing that you learn the most is from the practices," he continued. "After my rookie year I played on the USA team and you really learn what it is to be a professional and how to approach your job."

    Team USA will continue training in Las Vegas through July 12. The Olympics open on July 27.

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