Every year we seem to predict the slide of the Clippers when Blake Griffin goes out injured. Then the team plays well while Griffin is in a suit thanks to a heavy dose of Chris Paul/DeAndre Jordan pick-and-roll. Then people start asking “would the Clippers be better off without Griffin?” Then everyone who understands how basketball works shakes their head.
Let the cycle begin anew.
Monday the Clippers made official what was reported on Sunday: Griffin is going to miss some time for a clean-up knee surgery.
Griffin had been playing the best basketball of his career to start the season, particularly on the defensive end. He hasn’t been quite the same in recent weeks. Griffin still puts up numbers — 21 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game — and is at the heart of the second-most used five-man lineup in the NBA, the Clippers starting five. That group is outscoring opponents by 16.2 points per 100 possessions but when the Clippers go to the bench things get shakier. Now Rivers will need to rely on the bench.
This also could cost Griffin a lot of money. Griffin can — and will — use his early termination option this summer and become a free agent. The way Griffin played at the start of the season, he would have been in the crowded mix at forward for the All-NBA team. If he makes the team this season, the Clippers can offer him the “designated player” extension in the new CBA — 35 percent of the salary cap, meaning a five-year, $207 million contract. Except now with this injury, it becomes considerably less likely Griffin makes the All-NBA team. To qualify to be a designated player, someone must make the All-NBA team that season, or have made it the two prior seasons — Griffin didn’t make it last year, again due to injury. He would not qualify for the extension (the Clippers can still offer five years, but starting at just more than $30 million, not north of $35 million).