Notebook: Griffin’s Return, Doc Rivers Out With Illness, More
PHILADELPHIA – Blake Griffin returned to the court Tuesday after an 18-game absence following an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee.
Griffin started and played 29 minutes, going 3-for-11 from the floor with 12 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and six turnovers in a 121-110 loss to the 76ers.
“Felt all right other than turnovers and missing some easy ones,” Griffin said. “I was sloppy, rusty. I felt like I had some really stupid turnovers. I probably would’ve liked to attack more, especially late in the shot clock. A couple times I settled for jumpers.”
His 6-for-10 mark from the line bothered him, and, as many of his teammates also said, he thought the Clippers got away from playing team basketball and got lost defensively in the second half as they watched a 19-point lead evaporate.
Griffin said timing and rhythm are the things he needs to catch up on most. But more importantly, he said he felt fine physically in his return.
His most impressive athletic display came on a putback dunk, which he said didn’t surprise him. He said he’s had similar explosive moments during his workouts, so that part of the game was already “put to rest.”
“It’s good to be able to feel that in a game and get back to that, but I feel like that was already out of my mind,” Griffin said. “I honestly have had workouts that are twice as hard as this. As far as body-wise, pounding on my buddy, I’m lifting, then doing basketball, then doing treadmill and court conditioning all in a day, it’s more than just this. I don’t expect to feel anything.”
At one point late in the game, Griffin reached down around his knee after getting fouled, but he said that was a separate issue after taking a knee to the quad and that he was fine.
Assistant coach Mike Woodson said he thought Griffin got a little winded at times and that it’s normal to have some rust, but he thought Griffin otherwise played fine. DeAndre Jordan said he didn’t see any rust at all.
“He was just like his old self,” Jordan said. “We don’t really have to adjust to Blake – I know I don’t have to adjust when Blake is out there. I feel like he definitely helps us out more, especially with his playmaking ability and him being able to help on the glass. Defensively, we can do a lot of things with Blake, Luc (Mbah a Moute) and myself. It’s really good to have him back.”
Head coach Doc Rivers missed Tuesday’s game with an illness.
Rivers made it to the Wells Fargo Center, but it was clear from the moment he arrived he might not be healthy enough to make it tip-off. Rivers left before pregame media availability, and assistant coach Mike Woodson took over head coaching duties for the night.
“It was definitely strange,” Jordan said of playing without Rivers. “We’ve played without Doc a couple of games when he got kicked out, but for a whole game…I missed his raspy voice, but Woody did a job tonight, so it was cool.”
Woodson’s Clippers jumped out to an early lead and scored 68 points in the first half, but he said the ball movement stopped in the second half and the team played no defense Tuesday night. He felt accountable as the Clippers watched their sizable lead slip away.
“I’ll go and watch the tape, but as a coach, we always take responsibility and I put it on myself,” Woodson said. “Even though I’m not playing, I’m the coach and I’ve got to get them over the hump. That’s how I feel as a coach.”
Rivers (783 wins) remains two wins away from passing Gene Shue for No. 15 all-time in coaching victories.
Luc Mbah a Moute knew Philadelphia’s promising center Joel Embiid long before most, helping discover the talented 22-year-old big man at one of his basketball camps in his hometown Cameroon years ago.
Embiid, who wasn’t able to play Tuesday with a knee injury, is showing why Mbah a Moute was so intrigued, averaging 19.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game this season.
“I’m excited to see him play and play well,” Mbah a Moute said.
Embiid didn’t start playing basketball until his mid-teenage years, so it’s special for Mbah a Moute to see how quickly he’s developed as a player. Every time he sees Embiid, the young center looks better.
Mbah a Moute said Embiid always wanted to learn, and it’s paying off.
“It’s unbelievable,” Mbah a Moute said. “Every year he worked harder and got better. Obviously when I saw him, he was still very raw. But I had all the confidence in him…I’m very excited for his future.”