- Shelley Smith, SportsCenter correspondent
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At last year’s All-Star Game, Blake Griffin did it all. He played in what was then the Rookie-Sophomore Game, he competed in (and famously won) the dunk contest, and he played in the so-called varsity game Sunday night. And all in his town. And it took a toll on him.
“It affected me for a month,” Griffin said, remembering how he got sick with the flu after the weekend.
So this year, with the Clippers in third place in the Western Conference, he said he had to scale it down. He played in what's now called the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, but asked for limited minutes and played nine. He is taking Saturday night off to be with friends and family, but will play Sunday night as one of four Los Angeles-based starters for the West.
Last season put Blake Griffin on the map. His career had been roller-coaster-like: a good career at Oklahoma, being drafted by the Clippers, sitting out a season with a knee injury, and then emerging in the lofty place he found himself at the end of All-Star Weekend.
He watched closely the past month as the Knicks' Jeremy Lin took an eerily similar lightning-fast rise to the top. What advice would he give Lin?
"Enjoy it. For sure, be able to say no to things," Blake told ESPN radio. "It's going to be extremely hectic for him, so he should pace himself. Everyone's going to be pulling at him different ways and as quickly as they build you up, they're going to try to tear you down, so don't get too caught up in all that."
Blake and Lin, who played at Harvard, spent a lot of time on the bench Friday night laughing and kidding around. Lin said it was a dream come true to be included in a group with the likes of Griffin. Asked what they talked about, Griffin deadpanned and said, “Smart guy talk.”
Both Griffin and his Clippers and All-Star teammate Chris Paul have been two of the media darlings because of the buzz the Clippers are creating.
“I still need to work on my shot and be a confident shooter,” he said. “I've got to make sure I go straight into and I’m not hesitating, at the same time, it’s not something I want to force as a player. I want to make sure I play to my strengths and do the things my teammates and our team needs me to do.”
Griffin's appearance Friday night brought out Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his wife, Shelly. They were front and center at last year’s All-Star Game, too, and clearly are enjoying the team’s newfound success and promise, as is Griffin.
“It’s a building process,” Griffin said of what they are trying to accomplish. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but we’ve got to keep pushing at it.”