Shaquille O’Neal has a short list of players he allows to leave an impression on his son. Two of them are among the usual suspects – five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant and two-time reigning MVP LeBron James – but the other hasn’t even played 30 games in the league yet.
But when O’Neal watches Clippers rookie Blake Griffin, he sees what he wants his son to play like.
“Blake Griffin is a big 6-10 light-skinned cat like my son’s going to be,” O’Neal said.
A year after being taken by the Clippers with the top pick only to miss the season with a broken knee cap, Griffin is the favorite for rookie of the year, putting up eye-popping numbers and somewhat dimming the 1,000-watt light on this year’s No. 1 pick John Wall.
Griffin leads all rooks with 20 points and 11.7 rebounds a night. The last player to average 20 points and 10 rebounds as a rookie was Elton Brand to years ago. O’Neal put up 23.4 and 13.9
“I think he has the ability,” O’Neal said. “He just now has to figure out a way to lift his team to where they win all the time now. Right now he’s putting up big numbers, but you guys [in the media] are going to start turning the table real soon on him. ‘Why’s he putting up big numbers and his team ain’t winning?’ I know once those guys start to play together and win, it’ll be more of a story.”
Traditionally, futility is the fragrance of choice for the Clippers. This year’s been no different, but of their five wins this season, three have come against Oklahoma City, New Orleans and San Antonio, all top teams in the West.
“Before Phil [Jackson] came, we struggled a lot, too,” O’Neal said, looking back on his earlier days in Los Angles with the Lakers. “He’s got a good team, they’ve just got to play a little more together and they’ve just got to get tired of losing. But he’s nice. He’s real nice. He’s fabulous. You guys know I don’t give it up to anybody, but I’m giving it up to that young fella.”