No date has been set, and he still has to sit out a four-game suspension, but Blake Griffin is getting close to a return to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers have gone 23-7 without Griffin, playing improved defense and with a spread pick-and-roll off that has unleashed Chris Paul and improved the Clippers offensive flow. The ball is moving, and Austin Rivers told Steve Gorman on Fox Sports Radio that has to continue when Griffin returns.
“You’ve got to understand, because we haven’t played with Blake, our ball movement has been a lot better. I think we learned a mutual thing that’s like ‘alright, listen Blake, since you’ve been out, we’ve learned to move the ball better, so when you come back, we’re still going to play like that. But now we have you back, we’re still going to play through you at the same time.’ So I think we’ve both have learned things. There’s times when it’s obvious we need Blake, so I think it’s a learning experience for both of us. There’s no way we could be worse with Blake Griffin back on our team. It’s not possible. He’s one of the best players in the NBA, so we can’t wait to have him back.”
The Clippers are not better without Griffin, and anyone who says they are is selling something. The offense they have run in his absence works well during the regular season, when teams don’t have time to prepare outside of a film session, and they don’t dramatically adjust their game plans. That will change in the playoffs, and that is where Griffin’s immense skills and offensive options will give the Clippers options to attack a defense. Griffin can knock down jumpers and is a beast in the post. Remember he was a force of nature in the playoffs last year.
But Rivers is right about the ball movement, and if Griffin comes back and buys in the Clippers become a very dangerous 3/4 seed (wherever they land in the West). Whether that’s enough to get them even to the Conference Finals remains to be seen.