LOS ANGELES – With the start of the NBA free agency period looming late last month, Blake Griffin had every intention of testing the market.
He opted out of his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers – making him an unrestricted free agent – and scheduled meetings with the Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets and the Clippers. Griffin met with his incumbent team first, and after hearing what owner Steve Ballmer, head coach Doc Rivers and vice president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank had to say, he didn’t need to hear any more.
Griffin cancelled his meetings with Denver and Phoenix, and committed to signing a five-year, $175 million max contract with the Clippers – all before the official start of free agency on July 1.
“In the end, I realized this was a no-brainer for me,” Griffin said Wednesday during a press conference. “This was the best place for me, and this is the place I want to start and finish my career.”
Rivers appreciated that Griffin made his decision so quickly. He said Griffin committing allowed the Clippers to make other roster moves. They ended up signing Milos Teodosic from Europe and trading for Danilo Gallinari.
Rivers said by signing, Griffin’s message to the team was, “I wanna be a Clipper,” which meant worlds to him and the rest of the organization.
“This organization hasn’t had that,” Rivers said. “The fact that we have that now, that messaging is huge for us.”
Griffin’s signing came on the heels of the team introducing four players from the trade that sent Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets and brought back a package of Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell. Griffin said he spoke to Paul the day the trade happened, and both wished each other well.
“No hard feelings,” Griffin said of how he felt about Paul’s departure. “I think we’re all professional enough to know and we all have been in this situation now to know that sometimes you have to do what’s best for yourself and your family. I’ve never had a hard feeling with any of my teammates who have decided to leave or felt like it was best to leave, so I wouldn’t start now.”
Well wishes aside, Paul’s departure meant for many that the Clippers were incapable of winning a championship as previously constructed. Griffin scoffed at the notion that Paul leaving will motivate him more to lead Los Angeles to a title.
“I don’t need any extra motivation to win a championship,” Griffin said. “Nobody’s words or anything can motivate me any more than I’m already motivated.”
Griffin will now be expected to function as the focal point of the offense, which Rivers said will feature more ball movement now that Paul is gone. Griffin said he likes the speed, size and versatility of the new roster.
“I think we went out and put together probably the best roster we could and got the guys that we need in certain positions – guys that are very, very versatile, guys that impact the game on both ends of the floor in several different ways,” Griffin said. “That, to me, is extremely exciting. The more versatility we have, the harder you are to guard. Like Doc said, I think that’s the recipe for winning in today’s NBA.”
Griffin’s injury to the plantar plate in his right toe is progressing, he said, and his rehabilitation has allowed him to do more than he previously thought he could.
Griffin said he met with “probably five different foot specialists” before having surgery. The consensus was that he should be ready before the regular season begins.
“I expect to be ready to go by training camp,” said Griffin, who sustained the injury in last year’s playoffs. “Within the next few weeks here, I’ll be able to get on the court and ramp up things there. It’s been nice to be on the court just doing ball handling and free throws and stuff like that, but it’s just taking it week by week, really.”