Griffin to Emerge, Sooner or Later

Shaquille O’Neal. Allen Iverson. Tim Duncan. Yao Ming. Lebron James. Dwight Howard. Derrick Rose.

The NBA has seen its share of No. 1 draft picks who reach a level of greatness. The spot has also sprung disappointment.

Michael Olowokandi. Kwame Brown. Andrew Bogut.

Oh, Michael Olowokandi. You’ve done your part for the Clippers “Dream Team.” Danny Ferry. Chris Wilcox. Keyon Dooling. Shaun Livingston. The list of Clippers’ busts somehow overshadows the list of NBA busts. A paradox, I know.

But from 1999 to 2004, the Clips have made nine lottery selections. In theory (more like wishful thinking of Clippers fans) these picks could have formed the backbone of a super team. Even if the organization hit on just half of these selections they would have assembled a formidable starting lineup. Keep dreaming. This is an organization that selected “sure-thing” Lorenzen Wright over the “young” Kobe Bryant.

But maybe, just maybe, the Clippers will see things turn around. Blake Griffin, the Clippers first selection and the No. 1 pick overall in Thursday’s NBA Draft is already making a splash. He’s been a Clipper for only a few days but has yet to suffer injury. Imagine that. This alone is a reason for Clips fans to smile.

Although it is too early to tell if Griffin will be added to the list of first-selection greats, it appears unlikely he will land amidst the list of busts. And even if he enters the class of mediocrity (Chris Webber, Griffin is strong and quick, an overall athlete. But more than that, Griffin is a hard worker, eager to learn and a seemingly high-character young man.

The consensus sees Griffin as a longtime starter. If he stays healthy while wearing the red, white and blue, Griffin will likely become an All-Star and help a franchise that has had only two winning seasons in 30 years reach a championship. More importantly, he will break the Clippers’ curse of draft futility.

The Lakers did not make any key draft picks or moves. In fact, their only activity was trading their No. 29 pick, guard Toney Douglas (Florida State) to New York for some cash and a future second-round pick. However, other moves in the league will indirectly affect the 2009 NBA Champions.

The Denver Nuggets, who put up a fight against the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals had no first-round pick and looked as if they would trade off their second-round selection. However, they improved tremendously when they selected the quick and aware Ty Lawson (point guard) out of North Carolina. Lawson will provide Chauncey Billups with some much needed backup.  

Two Eastern Conference teams also had Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak checking and rechecking his ESPN updates widget. The Orlando Magic, Los Angeles’s opponent in the NBA Finals, acquired longtime veteran Vince Carter from the New Jersey Nets. And of course, the biggest hubbub of draft day was Shaquille O’Neal’s relocation to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Granted, the Magic had to give up Rafer Alston, Tony Battie and rookie Courtney Lee in the trade. However, Carter (an Orlando native) will provide the Magic with leadership, scoring and an overall natural tenacity.

Cavs Head Coach Mike Brown needs to ensure the 15-time All-Star gets rest and proper treatment throughout. If Shaq can stay healthy throughout the season, the Cavaliers have more promise entering the 2010 playoffs. Some critics argue the Cavs did not have a big man problem, but rather a role-players problem.

Review the tape in the Eastern Conference Finals. Watch number 12 in the blue jersey. See him dominate. Shaq should be able to slow down some of the East’s big men. He can also provide that supportive presence that Lebron James needs. However, players like Delonte West and Mo Williams should hit the court hard this summer. Make Shaq Daddy and King James shine, gentlemen.

Throwing it Out Into the Ethier

Andre Ethier continues to prove a leader for the surging Los Angeles Dodgers. Friday, Ethier’s three homeruns helped the Dodgers fin-ish the Seattle Mariners 8-2.

“It’s one of those unlikely things that’s a nice individual accomplishment, and if it helps the team and makes the outcome better for us, so be it.” Ethier said.

An obvious team player, Ethier understands the importance of remaining humble. “… I don’t expect home runs now just because of this.”

After a light workout on Friday, Manny Ramirez joined Class A Inland Empire for four more games in the minors. Many is eligible to return from his 50-game ban next Friday. Let’s hope the Dodgers can accommodate Manny.

Please let me know your thoughts. Do you feel the Dodgers need Manny at this point? What does he add or take away from the team’s success as they move forward?

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