By JUSTIN SOBELMAN
As the Feb. 8 trade deadline nears, we have already seen what is likely to be the biggest mid-season deal in the NBA. On Tuesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Los Angeles Clippers sent former All-Star forward Blake Griffin, and two other players, to the Detroit Pistons for a package of young players and draft picks.
If looked at in a vacuum, this deal isn’t too shocking: an aging veteran, often the discussion of trade rumors, with a litany of injuries in his career who is owed a huge amount of future money is dealt for assets. It happens frequently enough.
Of course, the NBA is always more complicated than what appears on the surface. ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported that during the Clippers’ free-agency pitch to Griffin just this past summer, L.A. set up “a makeshift museum of his life” and then retired his number in a mock ceremony in an empty Staples Center.
Lowe also reported that Clippers owner Steve Ballmer wanted Griffin to be a “Clipper for life,” and expressed before this season his belief that this Clippers squad could be the best in franchise history.
Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins confirmed Lowe’s report in a November feature on Griffin, adding the footnote that a choir was singing as the banner was raised, evoking Griffin’s famous dunk over a Kia in the 2011 Slam Dunk Contest.
Days later, Griffin inked a five-year, $171 million pact, seemingly a boon for a franchise that hoped to remain competitive in the wake of dealing superstar point guard Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets.
In Jenkins’ feature, Griffin spoke about his love for Los Angeles, and the Clippers. Griffin is very into comedy, and he even performs his own stand-up in the comic haven that is L.A.
A museum, a choir, a banner with Griffin’s No. 32 up in the rafters, verbal commitment from the owner, and the “I love being here” Lee Jenkins article. You’d forgive any NBA fan for thinking that Griffin’s L.A. tenure was far from over.
Then, poof, just six months later, Griffin is sent packing, trading out sunny 75 degree weather and a city whose biggest attractions match perfectly with his interests for temperatures in the teens and a totally new culture.
Let this be a reminder to everyone: promises mean nothing in the NBA, so let’s not take them too seriously.