2/1/11

"NBAz in 7Dayz"

Get some sun. Go for a run. Watch Charles Barkley coach another Rookie game of H.O.R.S.E. and laugh. All are things I've heard beat the proverbial February blahs. It's officially February and many in the NBA are putting on a happy face to beat their own blahs. Just look at the Cleveland Cavaliers. As of Monday, they have been on a 21 game loosing streak and nowhere near winning a title before their South Beach adversary. Speaking before the Heat faced the Cavaliers on Monday Night, LeBron James said he had no reason to enjoy Cleveland's epic struggles. He left Cleveland to further his own career he says, and the fact Cleveland is falling on hard times doesn't make the decision any better or worse. Well, for better or worse, this is the NBA and so unfolds the drama. I think a lot of times things get taken out of context and with February also being Black History month, allow me to quote from the late great Martin Luther King:

"The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in times of challenge and controversy".

On this note, we build today's discussion: achieving greatness after pushing past adversity. Blake Griffin? - did it. The Los Angeles Lakers? Hope to do it. Current and past NBA greats? Are famous for it. Let's begin.

Knee? What Knee?

Meet Blake Griffin. A young basketball phenom hailing from the University of Oklahoma, Griffin was selected first overall by the Clippers in the 2009 NBA Draft. Impressive? Gets better. He played for the Clippers' summer League Team and was named Summer League MVP. Taking notice if you didn't already? We all were. Then the day before the 2009-2010 season started, Griffin got a stress fracture (from landing a dunk, no less) that would put him out for weeks. When the healing wasn't going as well as expected, he had surgery on the broken kneecap and was out for the rest of the season. Not a good way for a kid with a lot of fire power to start his professional career. Still considered a rookie, he starts the 2010-2011 season on a team losing 13 of their first 14 games. Clippers looked like normal but how Blake Griffin rose to the occasion, was not. On November 10th, 2010, he single-handedly performed CPR on the Clippers by posting the most points scored by a rookie with 44 in a home loss to the Knicks.

I know this is all common knowledge but the weight of what he accomplished bears the merit of repeating. I think a lot of veterans in this league can learn from him, especially Andrew Bynum. This summer, Bynum decided to use his summer to vacation and take a step away from the game. Everyone is entitled to a little of that. But when you have a bum knee that needs surgery and you are on a team looking to defend its championship throne, do you put off the surgery so your recovery time is paid for during the regular season? Most Championship contenders would answer no but Bynum chose to miss part of this season and now still expects to be an NBA All-Star. Not cool in my books. Not cool at all. In the off season during his knee injury, Griffin spent a great deal of time working out with a San Francisco-based trainer, hungry to get back to the game he loves. Big difference. Now, as a result of this drive, he fills the Staples Center with Clippers fans just waiting to see what he does next. The Clippers' Marketing team no longer has to put Kobe or LeBron's face on advertising in an attempt to sell the team to wayward basketball fans. Now all they have to do is say Blake Griffin and people go bananas. Pure bananas. Only way to describe what he has done for his club, the league and the game. And oh yeah, his dunks.

Will L.A. make the playoffs? Do they deserve to?

This depends on which L.A. based team we are talking about. With the NBA All-Star game just around the corner, I like to look to the previous year's NBA Final. And what better time to do this then a few days after a finals rematch between the Lakers and Celtics. The Lakers got beat Sunday not as a result of complacency or lack of consistency like I have heard some people say. This time the Celtics were just he better team. Plain and simple. What usually happens when a team is playing disjointed and inconsistent going into the month of February? You got it - a trade. But Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak swears up and down they have not even looked into it. Really? The Lakers have dropped two straight as of Tuesday morning: one to the Sacramento Kings (of all teams? It should've been a cake walk) and the other to the Celtics. Well Mr. Kupchak, if you decide to 'look into it', read the previous paragraph of this article mentioning one of your veterans. Rhymes with 'hide 'em'.

We all need a 'pick me up'

Not just because it's February and the 'blah' factor associated with it, but we all need a little pick me up - Raptor fan or not. So I dug deep in to my archives to find my top ten favourite basketball quotations of all time. What could be more inspiring than the game of basketball, right? Here we go (in no particular order):

John Wooden - "What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player".

Robert Horry - "Pressure can burst a pipe or pressure can make a diamond".

Michael Jordan - "I have never been afraid to fail".

Tim Duncan - "Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best".

Phil Jackson - "Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the Me for the We".

Larry Bird - "A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals".

Magic Johnson - "Ask not what your teammates can do for you. Ask what you can do for your teammates".

Jim Valvano - "How do you go from where you are to where you want to be? I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal and you have to be willing to work for it."

Mike Krzyzewski - "If what you have done yesterday still looks big to you, you haven't done much today".

Elmer G. Letterman - "Personality can open doors, but only character can keep them open".

The last one wasn't necessarily basketball related - I just love that one.

Thank-you so much for joining me this week. As always keep your comments and suggestions coming by following me on Twitter (@ddegraauw) or on Facebook (Danielle de Graauw). See you on Thursday for more Raptor oponent analysis in "Behind Enemy Lines" right here on the DNB.

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