By Alex Groberman
The Los Angeles Clippers announced on Wednesday that they had exercised the team’s fourth-year contract option on guard Eric Gordon and third-year contract option on forward Blake Griffin. The moves came as no shock given the growth of Gordon over the summer during his stint with Team USA, and Griffin’s monster potential in his first entirely-healthy season with the club.
Gordon was selected by Los Angeles with the seventh overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft and in his brief two year career in the league, the former Indiana star has put up averages of 16.4 points, 2.9 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game. On top of that, he traveled to Istanbul, Turkey over the summer and helped Team USA capture a gold medal in the 2010 FIBA World Championships. Gordon averaged nearly nine points per game for the tournament, and finished second on the team in three-pointers made (19) and three-point field goal percentage (.452).
Griffin was the Clippers’ first overall selection in the 2009 NBA draft, however, ended up missing his first year with a fractured left patella. As a result, 2010-11 will be the former Oklahoma standout’s first official “rookie season.”
During the team’s media day, Griffin made light of his unique status as a “second-year rookie” as it would relate to typical rookie rituals.
“I guess I’m still considered a rookie, but last year was very valuable,” Griffin told the press on Monday. “I don’t think the guys realize I’m still a rookie. They haven’t made me do any of the rookie hazing yet. If we could not tell them, that would be great.”
Later on, however, the former No. 1 overall pick took a more serious tone.
“I saw a lot of things while I was on the sideline,” Griffin said. “The speed of the game, the way a game develops, the substitution patterns and defensive rotations. I saw everything, and it’s going to help me now that I’m on the court.”
The team’s starting center, Chris Kaman, noted the impact that Griffin would have on their group and how difficult it was for him to sit out in his first year.
“You don’t understand what it was like for him sitting out,” said Kaman. “The only other guy I know who works like that is Elton Brand. They had to tell (Griffin) to slow it down, or he would have run himself into the ground.
“I’ve tried to tell him that he doesn’t need to worry about all the pressure. I want to take some of that off him, and I think we have a good chance to be one of the best 4-5 combos in the league.”
When you first hear it, Kaman’s statement sounds a bit cocky. However, after giving it a bit out of thought, fans would be hard pressed to find too many tougher big-man duos out there than Kaman and Griffin.
A lot of pieces still have to fall into place for the Clippers to have a good season in 2010-11. With their latest moves in securing their promising young talent, though, LA’s other team has done their part to keep the future bright and heading in the right direction.
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