If the start of your holiday weekend was interrupted by the shocking news that Paul George is now a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, you’re not alone. But you also may have missed an important piece of free-agency news that dropped before that trade, and before the free-agency period even began.
Blake Griffin will remain a Clipper after reportedly agreeing to a five-year, $173 million–$175 million deal, first reported by the L.A. Times.
What It Means for Blake
Griffin was set to meet with the Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets as soon as free agency began at midnight ET on Friday. But hours before the madness, reports surfaced that Griffin had canceled his meetings with both teams, and all signs point to him staying in L.A.
It’s likely that the sticking point in all of this was the fifth year the Clippers could offer. When he reportedly met with Steve Ballmer and the organization Friday, the Clippers went all out for him.
Blake is the captain now. This is his team.
Whether he becomes a hybrid point forward, or sticks by his position and just increases his usage and role, the Clippers have made the choice to give him the reins of the franchise for the foreseeable future. For the first time since 2011, Blake won’t be part of a Chris Paul–led offense. Injuries remain the biggest question mark for Blake, but if he can find renewed health, this new start will act as a much-needed change of scenery even if it isn’t a change of location.
What It Means for the Clippers
The Clippers clearly came to a happy medium. Their lack of financial flexibility ahead of next season seemingly handcuffed them into two choices: reup or rebuild. After hiring away Jerry West from the Warriors and trading away Chris Paul (who appeared ready to leave in free agency anyway), the Clippers could have blown up the team. But re-signing Blake gives the perception that they don’t want to rebuild, but rather reshape the squad.
Committing to Blake gives L.A. an attractive piece to put in every single promotional piece of merchandise and allows the team to parlay its return from the Rockets and at least one more year of DeAndre Jordan into a solid team that will still draw even reluctant Clippers fans to Staples Center.
Steve Ballmer was never going to be down with a full rebuild. But the influence of West is being felt in one way or another. The Clippers seem to be on a promising track.
What It Means for the Rest of the NBA
Griffin was quick to get off the market, which crosses out a potential target for teams like the Celtics (don’t get me started), the Suns (it was nice while it lasted), the Heat (if only Pat would have gotten a meeting, am I right?), or the Nuggets (it would have been fun). Now, teams will turn to their Plan B’s, or in Boston’s case, their Plan C’s. But keep an eye on L.A. during the next few seasons. If something goes awry between Blake, Doc, or the franchise, it wouldn’t be surprising if West put Blake on the trading block.