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Thursday, August 16, 2012
Blake Griffin's gym rat summer

By Beckley Mason

Blake Griffin
On Blake Griffin's to-do list this summer: Fix that jumper.

Athletes of Blake Griffin’s stature are notorious for giving safe or even boring interviews -- because they have major brands, egos and endorsement deals to protect.

That’s why the young Clipper's first appearance on The Champs podcast was a revelation. Here was an All-Star and former Rookie of the Year being open and very funny about issues large and small that impacted his first NBA season.

Back then it seemed Griffin could do no wrong ... and then his sophomore season started. Despite another very productive year, Griffin took some heat in 2012 -- the kind of criticism that can make a player stop answering questions thoughtfully and with genuine personality.

Luckily, it seems Griffin hasn’t closed up just yet. In July he revisited The Champs, which is hosted by comedians Neal Brennan, Moshe Kasher and DJ Douggpound, for what was one of the best interviews with a current star I've ever heard.

Beware, the language can get pretty vulgar. Definitely not safe for work.

Here’s one of my favorite moments, in which Griffin describes his shooting woes:
Griffin: I hired a shooting coach. I work with him every single day.

Champs: What do you do?

Griffin: Change the mechanics a little bit, streamline it kind of. And hopefully that helps.

Champs: You said something interesting, which was that you were shooting as you were falling down. You were turning everything into like, a fadeaway kind of.

Griffin: Yea kind of a fadeaway or a push-arm shot. Or bring it behind my head -- slightly. Like if you watched me shoot you wouldn’t be like, “That’s a terrible shot.” It was decent, I guess. But now I’ve just kind of streamlined it. But I’ve still got a lot of work to do.

Champs: That’s exciting, do you feel improvement from it already?

Griffin: Yea, absolutely. It took a little bit but you finally turn a corner to where you’re just like, “Ah! Yes!”

Champs: Were you just like, “I suck! This isn’t going to work just let me shoot my old way!”

Griffin: Kind of, yea. You struggle with it because when you relearn all this stuff I guess you shoot terrible. You shoot worse than you ever have. Then you turn a corner when it all kind of clicks together. It’s not really relearning to shoot, completely, but I turned the corner and felt a lot better about it. Then I got hurt ... lost it all!

Champs: Missing free throws must make you [...] crazy.

Griffin: Yea, it’s mental for me. Because I can go into a practice gym by myself and hit like -- if I shoot 100 I can hit like 85, you know? Which ... is 85 percent! Then get into games and shoot 50 or 60. Towards the end I shot a little better in the playoffs you know I think I shot like 75.

Champs: You’re not a head case.

Griffin: No, but that’s what's weird about it. I don’t know. I think I’ve turned the corner though. [Radio announcer voice] Tune in to Season 3 and find out!

You know what happened one time we were up pretty big it was like the fourth quarter we had already come out or started to come out and you know how they do those “make a layup, make a free throw, make a 3 win $1,000?”

This guy comes out and the lady interviewed him and she’s like, “OK, you ready to get going?”

And the guy’s like, “Hey Blake, this is how you make a free throw!”

On the mike, into the whole arena. But you couldn’t really hear real well and no one was booing, everyone was kind of like, “Alright ...”

He makes his little layup, goes to the free throw line and misses every single free throw and then time expires. And I looked at him like, “Yeah ... now you know what I’m dealing with.”

Griffin also talks about how incredibly physical the first-round series against the Grizzlies was, why Lob City was an off-the-cuff joke and not a mantra, his knee injury and how he handles the people from his past who come back looking for money.

But what I love about the excerpt above is that it really underscores the importance of serious offseason workouts. It’s difficult for players to become better shooters over the course of a season. Not only is practice time scarce, but, as Griffin describes, really rebuilding shooting mechanics involves some significant growing pains. Intentionally going into a deeper slump is not a viable option, especially for a player who, like Griffin, carries so much of the scoring load for his team.