Today’s sign of Blake Griffin’s soaring popularity: TIME Magazine has discovered him.
Which is not to say he’s in the running for TIME Man of the Year, yet, but correspondent Sean Gregory’s story is the news weekly’s recognition of Blake as the NBA’s hottest story this season. He’s 45 games into his professional career and the pride of the Oklahoma City-area prep hoops and University of Oklahoma basketball is already transcending his sport.
Some interesting nuggets from “New Heights: The Cult of NBA Star Blake Griffin:”
– Blake thinks the knee injury that forced him to miss last season was a blessing: “I tried to turn the injury into a positive experience. Just sitting and watching, for me, was just good. I knew what it was going to be like, so I was a lot more comfortable coming in.”
– Blake’s pogo-stick leaping ability is a well-publicized source of his success. A less obvious asset: His hands. “When I’m in the air, my hands make it easier to move the ball from side to side, which makes it harder to block,” Griffin tells Time. “It really helps me finish my shots.” One NBA executive on Blake’s hands: “They become suction cups on rebounds.”
– Blake’s mom is mad at Brendan Haywood, whose flagrant foul on Griffin in Dallas this week left him nursing a sore left elbow. Said Haywood: “Every play can’t be a dunk-contest dunk.” Said Gail Griffin, Blake’s mom, who was in the stands in Dallas: “We don’t like it at all. It’s really hard. (Blake) experienced that a lot when he was at Oklahoma, and we just really didn’t think it was going to happen in the NBA. We thought, these guys are professionals. They know that this is their livelihood. I don’t really understand it.”
The “NBA on ESPN RV Tour” makes a stop in Oklahoma City Sunday for the Miami Heat vs. Thunder game.
The RV will be located just outside of the main entrance of the Oklahoma City Arena, from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Fans can tour the RV starting at 9:30 a.m. as well as participate in activities such as free throw contests, vertical jump challenges, souvenir photo stations, and more.
Sam Bradford’s people know what they’re doing. His first big endorsement deal appears to be with AXE Hair. Bradford, whose tends to start the preseason with a buzz cut and avoid a barber for the next six months, showed up on the set of Fox and Friends Thursday.
The former Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner answered questions about his hair and the ethics of a high school girls basketball team beating an opponent 108-3.
Some tidbits from Bradford’s conversation with Fox’s Brian Kilmeade:
On a Riverdale, Utah team’s 105-point victory: “I understand wanting your kids to be great, and pushing them to be their best at all times. But I feel like at that level there comes a point where you pull back. There’s no need to beat a team like that.”
On his new deal with AXE: “Axe really looked at my hair during the season and really thought I needed some help.”
By the way, Bradford was leading his ping pong match 2-0 when Fox went to a commercial.
No one ever accused Michael Beasley of selling out to defense. But his latest comments about Blake Griffin testify to his honesty.
Here’s what Beasley said when asked about the Minnesota Timberwolves’ defensive game plan for Wednesday night, when they play Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers in the Staples Center:
“Don’t get dunked on.”
Was he kidding or shedding light on Blake’s 47-point explosion against the Indiana Pacers Monday? Griffin scored on an array of turnaround jumpers, bank shots and up-and-unders. It produced the highest scoring game by an NBA player this season — but only one dunk.
It would be unwise to say Beasley speaks for a growing number of NBA players. Sometimes you have to wonder if he’s even speaking for himself. But as Blake continues to bully his way through his rookie season, keep Beasley’s words in mind.
Miami teammates Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh said essentially the same thing before their first meeting with Blake, and we know how that turned out. Blake Griffin: 24 points, 14 rebounds, six assists. LeBron James: 27-8-5. Clippers win. (Think about that: In his first meeting with King James, Blake had more assists.)
More than once I’ve seen power forwards on playoff teams defense Blake by backing off and offering him a turnaround jumper — from the low block. Among them: Bosh. “”In certain positions you’re not going to challenge him,” Bosh said. “I think he’s proven enough that he’ll go over the top of people. You just have to pick and choose your spots.
I’m really not much of a shot-blocker. I’m going to contest, but I’m not going to contest if he’s 10 feet in the air already.”
If there is an emerging save-face, risk-defeat strategy, it’s working for the Clippers. They’ve won 10 of 15.
– More Beasley-Griffin: Remember way back in 2008, when everyone in the country just knew Beasley was a better player than Blake? In their only collegiate meeting, Beasley had 32 points and 11 rebounds in Kansas State’s 84-82 victory at Oklahoma. Blake, of course, was no slouch in that game (27 points, 14 rebounds). Now both are in the NBA. Both have Big 12 Player of the Year attached to their names. Both have had their professional struggles — Beasley with substance abuse, Blake with injuries. But on the other side of those struggles, Beasley has seemingly resurrected his career in Minnesota and Blake is resurrecting the league’s most hapless franchise. And you don’t see anyone asking Blake Griffin about his defensive strategy for stopping Michael Beasley.
– That didn’t take long: Laker fans are already cooking up scenarios under which they pilfer another budding Clipper star. They did it with Byron Scott. They eventually did it with Lamar Odom — via Miami. Now they’re offering Pau Gasol-for-Blake trade scenarios and speculating how Blake will handle Decision 2014 — and we’re not talking about his vote in the next mid-term congressional elections.
Of course Lakers fans are not alone, at least five Thunder fans have asked me this week “how good would the Thunder be with Blake?” Remember, the Thunder went to the commercial break before the 2009 NBA Lottery with Scott Brooks standing there with representatives of the Clippers and Grizzlies — probably the only time Brooks has been comfortable in that kind of company — waiting to see which of them held the Blake Griffin Golden Ticket. The Grizzlies pulled it and Thunder — and now Laker — fans are left counting the days until Blake’s a free agent.
– Blake’s Dunk Face: It’s not Michael Jordan’s tongue-wagging, but Blake is developing a look, a dunk face. Check out Sports Illustrated’s Blake Griffin: Dunk Machine gallery, and tell me if you see the same thing I see. In almost every dunk it looks like Blake curls his upper lip like an old man who hasn’t put in his dentures and doesn’t want anyone to know it. Blake Griffin, Denture Dunker. I don’t think that’s going to work.
– Blake’s top 10: He’s less than three months into his pro career and Blake already has his own top 10 plays on nba.com.
What they’re saying: The latest word on Blake
– Golden State coach Keith Smart: “I don’t think we’ve ever seen a guy whose energy level is that high. The guy plays at an incredible rate… He’s electric. He keeps the fans involved, because everything he does is at a high, high rate. He’s a super-high competitor.” )Source: sfgate.com)
– Golden State center David Lee: “He’s somewhat athletic (note the sarcasm). “That really sets up the rest of his game. When he picks up more of a feel for the game, he’s going to get even better. The only guy I’ve ever seen like him was Amar’e (Stoudemire) before he hurt his knee, but Griffin is an even stronger version of that.” (Source: sfgate.com)
Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Patrick Crayton said new head coach Jason Garrett needs to crack down on Dez Bryant.
“They let him get away with a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff,” Crayton said on “The Ben & Skin Show” on 103.3 FM in Dallas. “Hopefully whoever they bring in as receivers coach, and they say [Jason] Garrett is a disciplinarian, won’t let him get away with so much stuff. He’ll get locked down and hopefully be the next Michael Irvin.”
Crayton, a former Northwestern Oklahoma State standout, was traded to the San Diego Chargers before last season. But reports have surfaced that Bryant, a former Oklahoma State standout, was late to several meetings during his rookie season. A source in the Cowboys front office told ESPNDallas that if the Dallas was presented a trade offer for Bryant “I would think about it.”
What is former OU quarterback Sam Bradford’s finder’s fee or commission for helping offensive coordinators get head coaching jobs? First, it was Kevin Wilson at Indiana and now Pat Shurmur with the Cleveland Browns.
Shurmur deserves credit for Bradford’s rapid development, which made him a cinch for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and rallied the Rams to within a win of the NFC Playoffs. That the Shurmur-Bradford ticket accomplished that with a receiving corps only slightly more accomplished than what Sam threw to as Putnam City North senior is all the more impressive. But was anyone offering Shurmur jobs after last season for his tutelage of Marc Bulger (70.7 quarterback rating) and Kyle Boller (61.2)?
Now, in a piece of Red River irony, Browns president Mike Holmgren has tasked Shurmur with doing the same thing for former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy that he did for Bradford. McCoy had some impressive stretches as a rookie. And if Shurmur turns him into a budding star it may be safe to declare him an offensive genius — though it might be wise for him to burn the game film of the regular-season finale at Seattle.
So whose career will Sam boost next? The names of two NFL head coaches deposed during the season — Josh McDaniels and Brad Childress — are among the first to surface. And if Sam can put them back on head-coaching tracks after the Denver and Minnesota flame-outs, Slinging Sam really is a miracle worker.
Childress has ties to Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo through their Philadelphia Eagles’ roots and probably better fits the Rams’ balanced attack aspirations. But as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz points out here, wouldn’t it be fun to watch Bradford stand back there in the shotgun and do his best Tom Brady imitation? Wasn’t that kind of what he was doing at Oklahoma?
Of course, if the Rams really want to replicate what Bradford did in Norman, the Sooners might want to deactivate the cellphone of another coach whose career got a Bradford boost — newly-minted OU offensive co-coordinator Josh Heupel.
Just when you thought the depth of Wes Welker’s many talents had been revealed — receiving, kick returning, place-kicking, dancing — the pride of Oklahoma City’s Heritage Hall school steps up to the microphone and tries his hand at comedy.
In an obvious shot at Jets coach Rex Ryan’s, ahem, personal life, Welker tried to cram as many foot references into this media interview session Thursday. A sampling of responses, courtesy of Pro Football Talk’s Gregg Rosenthal’s transcription:
Just when you think the chatter between the Patriots and Jets couldn’t get any sillier, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker stepped to the podium Thursday as if dared to see how many “foot” references he could cram in to a single media session. Behold:
– On this week of preparation: “Everybody’s putting their best foot forward.”
– On young players in the playoffs: “You can’t just stick your toe in the water. You gotta jump right in.”
– On playing this year as opposed to last year: “It’s definitely different. You know, you’ve got your foot up in the air trying to get the swelling to go down. Definitely excited about the opportunity to get out there and have some fun.”
Wes was just warming up. Read the rest of his routine here or watch this:
Brandon Weeden opened today’s press conference with a classic line, saying he was there to announce “Justin Blackmon is coming back to Oklahoma State, and so am I.”
Fitting, since the fate of Oklahoma State’s quarterback and star wide receiver are so intertwined.
For Weeden, the decision to forgo the NFL Draft and return for his senior season had little to do with the much-discussed age factor. Weeden turns 28 in October. He’s already old by NFL rookie standards. And the former Edmond Santa Fe High School star has told hometown friends that NFL sources say it’s too late to do anything about that.
In the end, Weeden’s decision came down to Blackmon’s decision. Weeden told Edmond confidants that if Justin Blackmon had entered the NFL Draft, he was likely to follow. Fortunately for Oklahoma State, its hopes of luring another top-flight offensive coordinator and its 2011 Big 12 title hopes, Blackmon decided to stay.
Did The Oklahoman place the blame on Sam Bradford’s shoulders for the loss that knocked the Rams out of the playoffs?
A handful of readers certainly thought so, citing our SportsMonday tab cover headline “SAM FALLS SHORT.”
One who described herself as an Oklahoman subscriber who “usually” enjoys the paper every day, thought we owed Sam an apology.
Another reader took issue with the cover and Associated Press writer Tim Booth’s account of the game, which focused more on Seattle’s side of the Seahawks’ 16-6 win. Here’s what he wrote to me Tuesday in an email:
“While it wasn’t even his fault that they lost, and seeing as though he took them from a one win team to a six win team and barely missing the playoffs, you and Tim Booth decided to down your home state’s quarterback badly. … Booth’s article only had a total of four sentences talking about Bradford throughout, all four of them making it seem like the game was Bradford’s fault.
“If any of ya’ll would have watched the game anywhere near closely you would have seen the blame should be placed in the receivers hands, not your home state’s own Sam’s. Tim did, however, decide to write that in his last line of the article.”
Both have a point.
I’ll address the headline first.
Sam has been in The Oklahoman headlines since he became starting quarterback at Putnam City North. His parents and the parents of his favorite receiver at North were on the cover of our high school football preview section. He’s big, good and a source of pride for the state every step of the way.
That said, he’s a quarterback and as such he gets more than his share of the credit when his team wins and more than his share of the blame when it loses. There’s no other position like it in sports because there’s no other position that so singularly can determine an outcome.
Sam did fall short. Not alone, but the reason that story was on the cover of The Oklahoman sports section was because of Sam, not the Rams. Still, the headline could have and should have thrown the Rams in there, as we’ve done so many times that I have begun to wonder whether he’s had his name legally changed to “Sam the Ram” Bradford. “Sam, Rams Fall Short” would have worked and addressed at least part of the reader’s complaints. It would have had less impact because the type would have been smaller, but these are the trade-offs worth making sometimes.
(That chucking you hear is from a sports staff used to my frequent request to make a headline bigger.)
As for the other point, anyone who watched the game could see that he need some receivers, badly. The Rams own the 14th overall pick in the NFL Draft and general manager Billy Devaney probably needs to use it to give Sam someone decent to throw to. Oklahomans, feel free to start thinking about the Bedlam connection of Bradford to Justin Blackmon. And if Mark Clayton bounces back from an injury all the merrier.
So why weren’t the woeful receivers addressed more in the story?
We’ve tried to play up the Rams coverage all season due to the high local interest in Bradford and his success. We’re produced a lot of stories ourselves on him and several times have made arrangements with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to run their coverage in The Oklahoman in full and on NewsOK to post the first three paragraphs with a link to the Post-Dispatch website.
This arrangement helps gain more exposure for the Post-Dispatch’s work, drives people to their website and guarantees our readers that they’ll have a Sam Bradford-focused story from the writers most focused on covering him and his team. I can promise you, had we carried a Post-Dispatch story in the Monday paper, there would have been more than four paragraphs on Sam and his struggles and that of his receivers would have been put into a larger and probably more accurate context.
We didn’t ask the Post-Dispatch for its stories Sunday night because we figured it was on a tight deadline with the biggest story of the season — the Rams trying to play their way into the playoffs. Live and learn.
Instead, we went with an Associated Press story. The Oklahoman pays Associated Press for its coverage of stories that we can’t get to around the nation and world, and many times that arrangment benefits our readers greatly.
But this was a case of where it didn’t. Too frequently, most of the time due to deadline pressures, the AP stories provide only one angle on a game — that of the winning team. And with the Seahawks becoming the first team with a losing record to ever make the NFL Playoffs, that was clearly the angle Associated Press needed to develop to serve a national and international audience.
Trouble is, a big chunk of our readers wanted to know more about Sam and what kept him from taking his team to the playoffs in his stellar rookie season. The result of what you saw was a confluence of deadline approaching (we got the game story in the minutes leading up to our final city deadline) and the relative importance of what happened to Sam and something that had never happened in league history.
And in the middle of all that there’s a better story and report to produce that we’ll strive for the next chance we get, which thankfully comes tonight.
The thrill ride that is Oklahoma defensive end Ronnell Lewis took a scary turn Saturday night in Glendale, Ariz., when Lewis was carted off the Fiesta Bowl field on a stretcher with a neck injury.
But the Sooners got some good news Monday. OU spokesman Kenny Mossman said Lewis was discharged from the hospital and is returning to Oklahoma today. According to Mossman’s Twitter post, OU head athletic trainer Scott Anderson said Lewis’ prognosis is good.
Mossman said Lewis sustained a mild concussion.
The Oklahoman’s Jake Trotter reported Sunday that Lewis is believed to have suffered an injury similar to what former Sooner Brody Eldridge did last season. After wearing a neck brace for several weeks, Eldridge made a full recovery and is now playing in the NFL for the playoff-bound Indianapolis Colts.
Lewis, sophomore and former eight-man football star at Dewar, OK, is a favorite of Sooner fans for his special teams hits. He is projected as a starter at defensive end in 2011.