Here is a link to my Monday column comparing Blake Griffin and David Lee. The full text runs below:
LOS ANGELES — This is a tale of two power forwards. Blake Griffin and David Lee. One learns from his mistakes. One doesn’t.
Guess which is which.
The ability to learn is a key to tonight’s Game 2 between the Clippers and Warriors in their NBA playoff series which the Warriors lead 1-0.
Griffin spoke Sunday morning at the Clippers’ workout facility. He spoke softly, his voice deep, his eyes roving around the room, Griffin occasionally making eye contact with reporters. He was the reason the Clippers lost the first game, lost at home, lost before their big loud crowd. He was a flop, a world-class washout.
It was Griffin’s job to be on the court, Griffin one of the NBA’s dominating players, but in the first half he lasted 3:53, a blip, a grain of sand, a drop in the bucket. He picked up two quick fouls and never recovered from the shock — he eventually fouled out. You could say those fouls, all six of them, weren’t his fault — the refs were overzealous meting out punishment. With all that talk about the Clips and Warriors hating each other and wanting to exact vengeance and perhaps offer a human sacrifice in Staples Center, the officials had to call a tight game. But to absolve Griffin would be incorrect.
He got nailed by the refs so fast it made your head spin — not to mention his. He should have learned right away but he never learned. Listen to what he said Sunday morning after he had a night to reflect on his basketball sins. He began with the usual clichés. “We put ourselves in the hole. We need to fight, more so for ourselves than anything.”
Whatever any of that means. Call it verbal throat clearing. The interview continued.
Someone asked what he thought about the refs calling the game so tight. “I didn’t really anticipate the game being called like that,” Griffin said.
Hold the phone, stop the presses, get Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper to discuss this in The Situation Room. Blake Griffin never thought the game would be called tight?
Everyone on Earth, including infants on formula, expected the refs to take control right away, to establish order, to insert tough love into the contest. Except Blake Griffin. He wandered onto the court without engaging in a moment of self-reflection.
He continued. “Obviously, they had guys in foul trouble. We had guys in foul trouble. It changes from game to game. The next game could be physical and not many fouls called. I just need to do a better job of reading my situation. You could kind of see the pattern of the game the first couple of fouls. You could see how the refs were calling the game.”
That quote is a whopper. Before I get to it, please don’t think I’m saying Griffin is stupid. He’s smart. But he’s not self-aware. Like when he said “I just need to do a better job of reading my situation.”
He’s been around. He should already know how to read a situation. David Lee does. (More on Lee in a moment.) Griffin admitted he could “see the pattern of the game,” yet he did nothing to adjust to the pattern when it actually mattered. He ended up playing about 19 minutes, total. Lee, who also got two fouls in the first quarter and finished with four, played more than 35 minutes.
Part of the reason for this discrepancy is the coaches. Mark Jackson had confidence Lee would not foul out, but Doc Rivers had no such confidence in Griffin. Jackson left Lee on the floor. Rivers kept pointing Griffin to the bench.
One other Griffin quote is revealing. Asked if the refs took him out of his game, he said, “No, they call games tight in the regular season all the time. It’s just a matter of adjusting to it. I don’t think it really takes anybody out of their game.”
It sure took Griffin out of his game. The morning after the game he got taken out of, he still didn’t know what happened. Here is a thought that might help him. The refs called fouls on him they had not called before. This was a playoff game and this was a blood game, and Griffin needed to understand that. Or his coach needed to tell him.
Quick note on Andre Iguodala. Also a foul-outer on opening night. Perhaps a non-learner when it comes to the refs. Off the court, he’s a high-intellect guy. There’s a big difference between Griffin and Iguodala. Griffin is Griffin and that’s a big deal. Iguodala is merely Iguodala, the fifth-best starter on the Warriors and a borderline disaster on offense. Got that?
Which brings us to Lee. An advanced learner.
The Warriors spoke with reporters Sunday afternoon in a gym at UCLA. Let’s listen in because Lee is worth listening in to.
“I wouldn’t say it was one of the more physical games. I wouldn’t say it was a finesse game. It was somewhere in between.”
True. It was nothing like the Jets and the Sharks from West Side Story. It was merely two ball teams.
Someone asked if Lee was surprised at how closely the refs called game?
“I wasn’t surprised by that at all,” he said.
Oh, please stop the presses again. David Lee was not surprised the whistle blowers blew a million whistles. He expected it. Why? Because he thought about it in advance.
Did you hear that, Blake?
“It’s what I somewhat expected,” Lee continued. “I didn’t think foul trouble would be as big a problem as it was. I expected them (the refs) to try to get a hold of that early so it didn’t get out of hand, so you’re not looking at Game 3 or at Game 4 with five, six guys suspended.”
Did Lee adjust his game to the refs and play with more care?
“I got two quick ones (fouls), so I had to be a little more careful. It’s our job as players to adjust to that as the game goes on.”
Please understand. Lee adjusted during the game, but Griffin still hadn’t adjusted the morning after. Lee never fouled out. He played a monster second half, ended up with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
He was entirely aware of being amped to the max in the first few minutes, even told Jackson he was out of his skull. The coach told him not to worry, the game would come to him. And it did.
Griffin still wonders where his game went, the game that got away.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at email@example.com.