In his rookie season, Blake Griffin is an NBA all-star and a YouTube all-star. Every night, he spectacularly dunks two or three times; then, every morning, The Blake Show on the Internet gets more views than a Lindsay Lohan rehab sighting.
I have lived in Los Angeles since 1992, and – until three months ago – at no time has anyone ever asked me, “Do the Clippers play tonight?”
I now rush home from the 99¢ Only Store to watch Clippers games.
But before we celebrate the beauty of Blake, you must understand the catastrophe that is the Clippers.
The Clippers’ decades-odd desolation begins at the top. The Clippers under Donald Sterling make the Redskins under Daniel Snyder look like the Frankish Empire under Charlemagne. How many team owners get sued by their longtime general manager and heckle their starting point guard while sitting courtside?
If Sterling owned Starbucks, nobody in America would drink coffee.
Since Sterling bought the team in 1981, the Clippers have a record of 823-1,579, with two winning seasons.
Enter Blake Griffin.
Following the script of the Clippers’ curse, the overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft was sidelined his entire first year, with a knee injury. Now, in his belated rookie season, he has soared boundlessly onto the L.A. skyline with singular energy and verve.
Still, the Clippers started this season 1-13 – well, to be fair, they start every season 1-13 – and were 5-21 before Griffin and Co. started to click.
I went to a Pistons-Clippers game early in the season – free seats – before Griffin became Shake ‘n Blake. On several occasions, an older fan a couple of rows away shouted to Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, “Hey, Vinny – nice suit!” This was easily the highlight of the night.
These days, Griffin is worth the full price of admission, especially since Clippers tickets are much less life-altering than Lakers tickets.
He’s a whirling dervish. He spins. He twirls. He can dunk with either hand and, in all likelihood, either foot. Sometimes, he seems like he’s on a trampoline. He does reverse alley-oop dunks. And Griffin has more alley in his oop than anyone ever.
(Did you watch him during the NBA’s slam dunk contest? He gave us a 360 two-handed jam, an elbow-in-the-rim masterpiece and an over-the-Kia finale. He’s half Evel Knievel, half Karl Wallenda.)
Everyone has his favorite Griffin dunk – mine is his slam against the Knicks’ Timofey Mozgov when he balanced his non-shooting hand on Mozgov’s head before throwing it down. (No wonder the Knicks have traded Mozgov for Carmelo Anthony).
Then, on one surreal fast break last month, Griffin leapt up and off my TV screen and was sprawling in my den before I could help him back into the game.*
(*A no-look assist to Woody Allen’s 1985 “The Purple Rose of Cairo” for this concept.)
The 21-35 Clippers, however, remain exasperating.
They have beaten the Spurs, the Heat and the Lakers, but they can lose to anyone any time. Recently, they were beaten in back-to-back- to-back games by the Cavaliers, who had lost 26 straight; by the Raptors, who had lost 16 of 17; and by the Bucks, who had lost 7 of 8.
If the Washington Generals caught the Clippers on the right night, Red Klotz’s boys could win by 30.
But win or lose, Griffin is must-see NBA TV. He is a YouTube sensation; if Griffin got residuals, he could’ve retired by the All-Star break. It’s quickly become a hoops habit: Wake up, power on the laptop, Google “Blake Griffin dunk” and click on the newest clip.
In my household, this is the way it works: I ask my 14-year-old stepson Isaiah how school was that day and he grunts. Then I tell him to come over and look at the latest Griffin YouTube moment; he pulls up a chair and watches it wide-eyed several times, then grunts again and disappears until dinner. We’re bonding, courtesy of Blake Griffin.
Now, if there were YouTube clips of Taylor Lautner throwing it down, I also could talk to my 12-year-old stepdaughter Mia.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Now that “Watson” crushed those two guys on “Jeopardy,” are you afraid you could be replaced by the latest version of the Macbook Pro? (Mark Concannon; Whitefish Bay, Wis.)
A. Listen, pal, I am a living, breathing soul with native intelligence. On the other hand, Macbook Pro has a one-year warranty and doesn’t wake up twice a night to pee.
Q. How come fans don’t have a seat at the negotiating table with the NFL players and team owners? (Richard Friedman; Latham, N.Y.)
A. If we did have a seat, I suspect the NFL would charge us for parking and concessions.
Q. I understand one can now confess via iPhone. Will this save The Slouch a weekly commute to the church? (Mark Wallace; Indianapolis)
A. iPhone? I still have a rotary phone, and my calling plan doesn’t include houses of worship.
Q. Could you believe the length off the tee on Tiger Woods’ spit? (R.P. Morse; Potomac, Md.)
A. When he launched that loogie, I thought it might hit a fire hydrant.