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Blake Griffin: MVP Dark Horse

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The world forgot about Blake Griffin.

Last season, the now 27-year-old went through the basketball equivalent of a Shakespearean tragedy: he got hurt, he hurt someone else, he got hurt again, and then, in a disturbing final anticlimax, he fizzled away.

After that last moment, in which NBA fans watched and sighed as the Los Angeles Clippers again failed to qualify for the Western Conference Finals, attention was turned to the 73–9 Warriors and their scrappy opposition, the LeBron James-led Cavaliers as a Finals rematch of tremendous historical saliency began. Then summer struck in a sudden haze, and the Kevin Durant sweepstakes unfolded. Simultaneously, the Olympics took place, and Team USA snatched the attention of hoop addicts everywhere.

The world forgot about Blake Griffin.

Even during the preseason, no one seemed to be talking about Blake. And he certainly wasn’t talking about himself. The focus was rightfully on the new-look Warriors and rookies—not a peep about a seven year veteran playing on a team with a tried formula.

And now here we are, less than 10 games into the regular season and the names that adorn the list of MVP candidates are as follows: Davis, Westbrook, LeBron, Durant, Curry, Kawhi, Harden and Lillard. Even Chris Paul has had a bit more respect in the MVP conversation than his All-Star teammate.

But Griffin doesn’t need to speak up; he doesn’t need to get angry. All he needs to do is play. The pressure of the lights is gone—at least until spring—and now he’s healthily taking names.

Oh, and he’s still dunking. A lot.

Blake is in a potential contract year (he can become an unrestricted free agent next summer if he declines his $21.4 million player option), and although he told SI’s Ben Golliver in an interview that he has put little thought into the matter, there is no question that reminding the market of his value is on his mind.

Opening the season, Griffin dropped a season-high 27 points and 13 rebounds against the Portland Trail Blazers. And while almost no one batted an eye, that single game might have sparked an incredible season-long act of redemption.

Six games in, the Clippers are 5–1 and Blake is averaging 20.3 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3 assists in just 32 minutes per game. He is shooting a decent 46.8 per cent, though it appears he is still shaking off rust. More eye-popping is that he’s taking 6.8 free throw attempts a game (his highest since 2013–14); compared to last season where he only took 5.5. Translation: his aggressiveness has been turned up.

We’re also seeing a shiny new jump shot that looks, dare it be said, silky. Griffin isn’t taking a ton of three-pointers, and teams are letting him shoot, but he is already showing that he can now make them on a semi-consistent basis. Moreover, Blake has an improved midrange jumper, though he hasn’t taken many of those yet, with 48.4 per cent of his field goal attempts coming from 0–2 feet of the basket.

While Griffin has largely been cast aside in the public eye, the Clippers haven’t. Many picked them to garner the second seed in the West this season. That raises Blake’s MVP odds significantly. The last time an NBA player won the MVP award without being on a top-two team of their respective conference was in 1988, when a young Michael Jordan and his third seed Bulls snatched it.

Let’s look at those other candidates again:

  • Stephen Curry — Durant as a teammate lowers chances.
  • Anthony Davis — Pelicans will not place second or higher.
  • Kevin Durant — Curry as a teammate lowers chances.
  • James Harden — Rockets will not place second or higher.
  • LeBron James — Legitimate threat if he does not coast.
  • Kawhi Leonard — Legitimate threat.
  • Damian Lillard — Blazers will not place second or higher.
  • Russell Westbrook — Thunder will not place second or higher.

One could argue that CP3 takes away from Griffin’s odds. This is a fair point, and in years past, it has affected both players’ MVP hopes. But if Griffin continues to tear up the court, it will be difficult to say he hasn’t taken over as the best player on the roster.

Of course, this is all based on a laughably small sample size. Anything could happen. Maybe that’s the reason you shouldn’t pick Blake; or maybe that’s exactly the reason you should. But don’t be surprised as months go by and the season is winding down, if a familiar face resurfaces.

The world forgot about Blake Griffin.

That was a mistake.

Joshua is Editor-in-Chief at Press Basketball. His love of the sport started with watching a LeBron James game in 2003, and he quickly took a shine to his Canada-based Toronto Raptors. His NBA-related words have been found at Hoops Habit, NBA.com's HOOP magazine, and Raptors Republic. He loves words with a passion and is always writing. Joshua is a published author, poet, sportswriter, and film critic.

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Below the Hardwood

Kyrie The Crusader

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Below The Hardwood
Kyrie The Crusader
Below The Hardwood Kyrie The Crusader

In episode 2, the team gives their thoughts on the crusade led by Kyrie Irving to keep the 19-20 NBA season cancelled amidst the social injustice and Covid-19.  As the league prepares for the return of the season, the crew ponders whether Kyrie and others have a good argument on why continuing the season could be a distraction to bigger issues and if the league does return which teams, players are you looking forward to watching in the new 8 game format.

Don’t forget to follow the team on Instagram and most social media platforms

  • @belowthehardwood
  • @RAHenry
  • @alanshane
  • @livingmydexlife 

Podcast available on Spotify, Apple, Google, and iHeartRadio.

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Below the Hardwood

The COVID Special

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The Break
USA vs Everybody | Episode 17
The Break USA vs Everybody | Episode 17

For the first time in over 4 years BTH is back to talk the best in the NBA as they always do….

Social distancing style!

In this episode the team, the homies and  the compadres give their takes on “The Last Dance” MJ Doc; who’s really behind it?, the 2020 NBA season; will it return and which players need it bad, who is the season MVP, would be playoff match ups for east and west conference finals and who would have ultimately won the NBA Finals had it not been for the pandemic of Covid-19.

Don’t forget to follow the team on Instagram and most social media platforms

  • @belowthehardwood
  • @RAHenry
  • @alanshane
  • @livingmydexlife

Podcast available on Spotify, Apple, Google, and iHeartRadio.

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Featured Article

Ride The Wave

Back in October the sky was the limit. LeBron had decided to move to LA and join the Lakers. Things were good then.

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Back in October the sky was the limit. LeBron had decided to move to LA and join the Lakers, drawing in a decent support team and a lot of talk that the West was looking incredibly dominant next to a “weaker” East. Things were good then.

Five months later and things couldn’t be farther from that idylistic picture. The East thrived without the King and GMs put together some of the most noteworthy teams in a while. And the Lakers? The Lakers currently sit in the 11th spot of the Western Conference with very little hope of making it to the playoffs. They’re a team that is constantly attacked for their lack of chemistry, skill, and effort. For the first time in a long time, LA became synonymous with “hopeless”.

This wasn’t the future we saw for the King.

On the heels of a night filled with one of his greatest achievements ever, the Lakers as a team walked away with a loss to the Denver Nuggets. A night that began on a high note went out on one that was equivalent to sour candy. Furthermore, a frustrated team left an arena, hopped on social media, and found a bevy of congrats for their star player, while enduring the storm that came with another Lakers loss.

It seems that James’ stardom has reached a tipping point, one that makes him a GM one moment, the King of the league the next, and finally the biggest point of contention within the locker room. The most notable thing is that it is clearly wearing him down. Chris Martin let us know that “nobody one said it was easy”, but you’ve got to ask yourself, does it have to be so hard?

The answer is unfortunately, yes. It’s always going to be this way, and there is no fighting the current, but there is beauty in riding the wave. Embracing that moment when the wave comes crashing down on you is important, because it’s always going to happen, but your attitude will always be remembered. LeBron rides high, and keeps things in the positive light for the media, but he’s got to realize that they are writing his story, and he doesn’t have to play into their’s. Ride the wave, and take the loss in stride with all the great that has come with it, but take the loss because your part of a team that is.

The wave has crashed down, but the current will bring another.

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