WHAT’S in a name? For Blake Griffin, everything. He began building his up as a sophomore with the Sooners, with his outstanding efforts earning for his Consensus National Player of the Year honors. And after being selected first overall in the 2009 National Basketball Association, he added to its luster as a high-flyer with impact, headlining Lob City and, in the process, claiming six All-Star and five All-NBA berths. An acrimonious split with the Clippers followed, and, naturally, he aimed to prove it remained relevant in the pace-and-space era; in his first season with the Pistons, he showed his capacity to retool his game as a big playmaker with range.
Unfortunately, Griffin’s susceptibility to injury followed his transfer. Two surgeries to his left knee all but scuttled his 2019-20 season, and his shockingly poor start to his 2020-21 campaign showed how much his handicap has continued to affect him. And with his name and what it stands for coming under threat from his largely grounded game, he found himself bought out by the rebuilding Pistons. Now, he’s banking on it still possessing enough respect in order for him to latch on to a contender as a still-relevant contributor. If speculation is to be believed, he’s likely to see his wish granted sooner rather than later.
To be sure, Griffin has no shortage of suitors who deem him crucial, even critical, in lending credibility to title aspirations. No doubt, those casting a moist eye on the Larry O’Brien Trophy consider him to be a risk worth taking. Even as he will be welcomed on the cheap, he figures to be propelled by no small measure of motivation; he wants to underscore to all and sundry that his name still means something. In light of depressed expectations, he won’t encounter difficulty in this regard. At the same time, however, he means to indicate that it stands for winning — which may well be the bigger challenge for him.
Griffin hasn’t gone past the conference semifinals in 11 years as a pro, and it’s fair to argue that, if at all, he will be doing so as part of a supporting cast. If there’s anything his current-season stat line has highlighted, it’s that his best days are behind him. He began his pro hoops career bogged down by knee troubles, and it seems he will be ending it the same way. Meanwhile, he’s banking on his name to stand for something else: resolve. He may be relatively diminished, but he’s determined to be the best he can be, wherever he may end up, all the hurdles notwithstanding.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.