Either way, Griffin is a different player now than in October, when he declared the Clippers’ own particular brand of showtime basketball over in a city where the 16-time NBA champion Lakers always have ruled.
“They say players are made in the offseason,” Sacramento coach Mike Malone said. “For Blake to be getting better as the season goes on, that’s a testament to his work ethic.”
And then there’s Paul, who keeps doing what he has always done in being the NBA’s best point guard.
So how hard can it be to coach a team that has two All-Stars and considerably more depth than it did a year ago?
“It’s not as easy as people think,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “Doc, Gregg Popovich … people with talent, they don’t get the credit they deserve. Even if you have talent in this league, you’ve got to get those guys to come together. You’ve got to get them to buy in. You’ve got to find a way to get them to play as a team.”
And that is why the Clippers, reportedly at Paul’s direction, convinced Rivers to leave the aging Celtics for a Clippers team coming into its prime.
Seven seasons ago, Rivers won only 24 games with a Celtics team that transformed itself by adding Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen alongside Paul Pierce the next summer. He has coached teams at both extremes and considers talented and experienced teams easier to coach, of course.
But for this reason:
“At the end of the day, it’s still the same sell,” Rivers said. “You have to get them to buy into a team. I’ve had some teams that aren’t very talented that have done pretty well and then some that haven’t. I always thought the more talented teams were easier to sell a role because it’s about winning. Less-talented teams are harder in a strange way because each guy is like, ‘Well, we’re losing, why do you play him over me?’ Everybody’s trying to find their own thing and very few of those types of teams are worried about the team, and that’s difficult.”
Soon, the Clippers might know just how good a salesman Rivers is.