L.A. Clippers Look to Bounce Back With Healthy Blake Griffin


L.A. Clippers Look to Bounce Back With Healthy Blake Griffin The Los Angeles Clippers began their season with high hopes of seeing their No. 1 overall pick, Blake Griffin, blossom into a franchise player that could lead them to the NBA's promised land.

Instead they lost Griffin in October, scrambled for a contingency plan, and ultimately spent the entire season underachieving despite fielding a starting lineup with multiple All-Stars.

But that's par for the course in Clipperland, where they've had just one winning season in the last 18 years. This franchise is numb to the pain of losing.

2009-10 Record: 29-53 (third in Pacific Division, 12th in Western Conference, missed playoffs)

Celtics' record vs. Clippers: 82-31 all time, 1-1 last season

Familiar faces: Randy Foye (originally drafted by Celtics), Ryan Gomes (went to Providence; played two seasons in Boston, sent to Minnesota in Kevin Garnett trade), Craig Smith (BC alum)

Key additions: Randy Foye (free agent), Ryan Gomes (free agent), Brian Cook (free agent), Al-Farouq Aminu (draft), Eric Bledsoe (draft), Willie Warren (draft)

Key losses: Steve Blake (signed with Lakers), Drew Gooden (signed with Bucks), Travis Outlaw (signed with Nets)

Burning question: Just how good is Blake Griffin?

Last year, we never got a chance to see.

The Clippers selected the former Oklahoma Sooners standout with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, only to discover the day before the season started that he had a stress fracture in his left knee and wouldn't be able to make his much-heralded debut. Eventually, he was out for the whole season.

The Clippers sure could have used him. They had a fundamentally sound big man last season in Chris Kaman, and a pair of flashy high-scoring guards in Baron Davis and Eric Gordon. But they needed one more explosive big guy in order to start thinking playoffs. Griffin could have been that guy, but he didn't get the chance.

Griffin's been working on his game during his time away, though. He's been working on his post moves and his mid-range game; he wants to become a more versatile offensive player, a dangerous scoring machine like an Amare Stoudemire or a Chris Bosh.

Can Griffin be that player right away? Or will he end up as a relative bust, like a Greg Oden or an Andrea Bargnani? When the Clippers tip off this fall, we may finally find out.

2010-11 outlook: With all the talent they've stacked up, the Clippers would have to be disappointed if they don't win 35 games this season at the very least. Davis is still one of the game's most electrifying point guards, and the big man tandem of Kaman and Griffin, if healthy, should be a terror every night. But can the Clips put it all together? All signs may point to yes, but you just can't ever trust this franchise to figure it out. A playoff berth in 2011 still seems like a reach.

Did you know? Griffin may have been injured all of last season, but his Clipper teammates refused to go easy on him with the rookie hazing. The Clips' No. 1 pick was forced to carry a small, pink Dora the Explorer backpack with him on road trips last season.

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