It’s year four of Blake Griffin’s still-blossoming NBA career, and the Oklahoma native knows that this year, things need to be different. The Los Angeles Clippers’ roster is replete with athletic studs—from Chris Paul to DeAndre Jordan to Jamal Crawford—but the team’s success has been more directly tied to Griffin’s performance than to anyone else’s. For proof, look no further than last year, when Griffin averaged 18 points and 8 boards during the regular season, but fell off to 13 and 5 in the Clippers’ first-round playoff loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Despite all of their talent, the Clippers haven’t yet made a prolonged playoff run, fizzling out in the first or second round in the past two seasons.
This season, the Clippers are again off to a good start, sitting at 16-9, the fourth-best record in the Western Conference. Griffin is averaging a double-double so far, scoring 20 points a game and pulling down 10.4 rebounds. As the Clips take aim at the NBA Finals, we spoke with Griffin about what it will take to advance in the playoffs, his off-season workout and his most memorable moments on the court.
STACK: Many basketball analysts seem to think that as you go, so go the Clippers. Do you feel this is the year for you to take that next step and push your team deep into the playoffs?
Griffin: Absolutely. I’ve been working with the coaching staff and really understanding how they are going to use me. I’m doing a lot more work on the elbow and the high post. I’m really looking forward to it and looking forward to having a big year. As far as the team goes, it’s really my job to help facilitate as well, and not just be a guy that’s only looking to shoot or score.
What was different about this past off-season compared to previous ones?
I feel like this off-season has been one of the biggest off-seasons for me, because I’ve really been able to concentrate on basketball the entire time. My first off-season, I was rehabbing my knee, then last year I had to have surgery on my knee, so I really looked at this summer and put in a lot of time and energy. I really focused on my shooting out of the post, face up, back to the basket, stuff like that, and also got in really good shape going into training camp, because last season I wasn’t able to prepare as well as I would like.
What are some things you did, workout wise, to get your body ready?
I try to mix it up. I try not to do too much of one thing. For me, in the off-season, I ride bikes, I’ll go swimming. I’ve done some boxing here and there, really just to try and keep it fresh and not get monotonous like going to the gym every morning and doing the same Squats or Bench Press over and over. You get bored with it and you’re not getting as much out of it. So I just try to keep it loose and mix it up.
Our strength coach actually does triathlons, so he’s a pretty good swimmer and cyclist and all that. He puts together my workout. I’ll do just regular sprints in the pool. Down and back. He calls them 50s. I do Tarzans, where you can’t use your legs and you have to keep your head above water, so it’s all upper body. We do Lung Busters, where you try to swim seven strokes without taking a breath, so it’s only like two breaths down and two breaths back. So we try to mix that up.
As far as cycling, I’ll do it with my strength coach or I’ll do it in a class. There aren’t a lot of dudes in there (laughs). It’s a pretty good workout and it mixes it up for me. It’s a good way to get cardio in and do a little bit of a lower-body workout.
What’s the most important part of your body to work on for the kind of aggressive, around the rim game that you play?
It’s mostly legs and core for me. People think the stronger you are in the upper body, the better you’ll be. A lot of times some of the strongest guys are the easiest ones to push around, because from the waist down they aren’t as strong in their core where you really have to hold guys off.
There is nothing that the core can’t help with. Grabbing rebounds, pulling them down and holding my position in the post, playing defense. I have some issues with my back, but as long as I keep my core as strong as possible, those issues kind of go away. I have to stay on my core and make sure I’m doing it every single day to keep my back from messing up, which in turn messes up something else.
You’re already in your fourth season. What’s been the best moment of your short career so far? Dunking all over Kendrick Perkins?
Probably my first playoff experience, when we came back from down 27 in the fourth quarter [against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the 2012 Playoffs] and won. We won Game 7 to go on to the second round. That’s something I’ll never forget.
Photo via AP