Blake Griffin helped turn the Los Angeles Clippers into a must-see television program. Paired with Chris Paul, the two all-stars founded “Lob City”, which not only made the Clippers a high-flying, exciting basketball team, but also finally a regular player in the postseason.
However, LA made the tough decision to break away from its franchise star in 2018 and usher in a new era in Hollywood. Although Griffin understands that it was a purely business decision, he shared the uncomfortably awkward way he found out he was in the trading bloc.
Griffin joined the Clippers as the first overall winner in 2009 and quickly changed the direction of the franchise. After missing his rookie year with a knee injury, the former Oklahoma Sooner began his gaming career with five consecutive All-Star appearances from 2011 to 2015. But more importantly, LA won more than ever.
Prior to Griffin’s arrival, the Clippers made four postseason appearances while in Los Angeles. But in Griffin’s second season on the court, LA started a stretch of six straight playoff couches. In addition, they won 50 or more games in all but one of those seasons, which they had never achieved during their time in Buffalo, New York.
However, it wasn’t LA’s goal only to make the playoffs. The Clippers never made it past the second round with Griffin and Paul, even after a franchise campaign with 57 wins in 2013-14. Additionally, Griffin began struggling with injuries, missing over half of the 2015/16 season, and playing only 61 games the following year.
Despite injuries and playoff disappointments, the Clippers Griffin have made a long-term commitment. In July 2017, owner Steve Ballmer and general manager Michael Winger signed the striker for a five-year extension of $ 171 million. Griffin would soon realize, however, that his time in LA might not be guaranteed.
First, the Clippers traded Paul just weeks before Griffin’s signing with the Houston Rockets. Second, LA slid throughout the 2017-18 season, barely holding more than a game or two over .500.
Concerned about his status on the team, Griffin unsuccessfully called his agent for answers. From there, the veteran went to his GM’s office to ask if he was being bought. The interaction was, to put it mildly, uncomfortable (h / t: In detail with Graham Bensinger)
When the two finally made it to the office, Griffin got the answer he was looking for.
“It starts with, ‘You know, a player of your caliber …’ and I said, ‘No, don’t, come on. I don’t need any of this, I just want to know, “said Griffin. “And he said, ‘You’re the first call,’ and I said, ‘Okay, I appreciate it.'”
Shortly after the awkward conversation with Winger, Griffin’s time in LA was over. On January 29, 2018, just over six months after signing an extension, Blake was traded on the Detroit Pistons.
Griffin wasn’t exactly the first to find out what his GM was promising, however.
“I was driving home, I was going to pick up my kids,” said Griffin. “I saw [Adrian Wojnarowski’s] Tweet stating the Clippers and Pistons are making a deal. But my friend kept giving me updates too, saying, ‘It’s on the one-yard line.’ And that was it.”
Griffin eventually had a brief domination in Detroit. The 32-year-old formed his sixth all-star team in 2018/19 with an average of 24.5 points and 7.5 boards in 75 games. But he would only play 38 games for the Pistons over the next two seasons before being retired and signed with the Brooklyn Nets in March 2021.
The Clippers have since built around a new core. About 18 months after trading in Griffin, LA landed superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. In addition, the franchise also reached its first Western Conference final in history in 2021, before falling in six games against the Phoenix Suns.
Griffin has no negative feelings about the Clippers. But he will never forget this awkward encounter before being traded.