With new season ahead, Blake Griffin wipes slate clean

Clippers forward looks to erase dismal 2015-16 season, return to All-Star form

So, yeah. Last season.

“You try to learn something from every situation you’re in,” Blake Griffin said Tuesday night after the LA Clippers played their final exhibition game, a 92-89 victory over the Sacramento Kings. “The good, the bad. I definitely learned from it.”

What did you learn?

“A lot of things. A lot of things.”

Griffin is either unable or, more likely, unwilling to dig deep into the emotions and how 2015-16 affects his approach to 2016-17.

The torn tendon in his left leg in December that cost him 41 games.

How he punched the team’s assistant equipment manager outside a Toronto restaurant in January, resulting in a fractured right hand.

How he punched the team’s assistant equipment manager outside a Toronto restaurant in January, also resulting in a four-game suspension from the Clippers, a rare move by any management against a star, and $859,442 in lost pay.

That Los Angeles had a better winning percentage when he was out (.667) than when he played (.567).

The same tendon in the same left leg getting torn again in Game 4 of the first round against the Portland Trail Blazers, ending his season the same night Chris Paul’s was over because of a fractured hand and, therefore, essentially the Clippers’ as well.

“As hard of an individual season as you could have,” coach Doc Rivers said.

That last season.

“You learn from every situation, the good and the bad,” Griffin said while sitting in front of his locker inside Golden 1 Center, talking through what last season means for this season, but not really talking it through. “Learn from it and move it. I don’t need extra motivation for any season. I’ve never really needed motivation. I just take those lessons with me and apply them, like I do every year.”

Did 2015-16 change you?

“Yeah,” he said.

Griffin allowed that much. But then he quickly added: “Every season has changed me.”

He is one of the NBA’s great pitchman, able to pull off commercials with a comedic bent, willing to put himself out there (for the right price) in costume and antics, mostly handling the spotlight from the moment he arrived as the No. 1 pick in 2009. Except for the part about showing much of his actual self, as opposed to his marketing self, so it is difficult to know for sure whether the injuries and the unusual suspension and putting the Clippers’ season at risk to drop a staffer on the street, the entire hard season, will become lessons learned and a new focus now.

But people around him have noticed a difference before even preseason was over, a very encouraging sign as L.A. tries to mount another run at the state, division and conference rivals in Oakland. The Clippers need a lot to overtake the Golden State Warriors. Griffin pushing himself to a new place would be a big help.

He is that important to the Clips, a scoring big man alongside the defense of center DeAndre Jordan, a secondary passer to take some of that responsibility from Paul, an expanding offensive game that remains as prominent as ever on the downtown skyline of Lob City.

“He’s just more determined,” Rivers said. “I think Blake’s always been determined, though. Blake’s a great human being. A very, very good human being. He didn’t want what happened last year and it’s a great example that one minute can change things. It did for Blake. The positive in that is he went through a tough time and came out of it and I think he missed the game. I think that happens to players. They take it for granted sometimes.

“You can see his love for the game more for sure. And he already loved it. I just think when you miss like that you really appreciate your teammates; you appreciate the game. I don’t see it visually, but my guess is that’s probably what’s happened.”

Like Griffin is cherishing the new chance, whether for redemption or to prove something.

“Yeah,” Paul said. “No question. But all of us collectively. Me and Blake talked about it a little bit. When you get injured or the game’s taken away from you, you hate that things like that have to happen for you to appreciate the game as much as you do …”

The Clippers hope it leads to the arrival of a new Griffin. Or the return of the old one. Just not the one from last season, when he was learning a lot of things.


Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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