I don’t believe in curses. If I did, I wouldn’t have allowed myself to become a Cleveland Browns fan in the ’80s — and then again in the ’90s. I wouldn’t have been surprised when Aaron Boone hit that home run in ’03. And I wouldn’t have looked into a bathroom mirror and said “Candyman” five times. (OK, I didn’t really do the last one. Tony Todd still scares me to this day.)
Point is, I don’t believe there’s a curse on the L.A. Clippers. Every bad draft pick they’ve ever made can be chalked up to poor scouting (Chris Wilcox), understandably falling for media overhype (Michael Olowokandi), very explainable injuries (Shaun Livingston), and whatever other miscellaneous non-supernatural factors prevent a young prospect from panning out (Darius Miles). Every crushing postseason loss can be explained in simple basketball-speak (Get your hands up, Daniel Ewing!), and every disastrous Lottery season can be explained by a lack of talent, bad coaching, bad chemistry, injuries, or a combination of all four.
But I do believe in spinning “What if?” scenarios. So let’s pretend that Blake Griffin‘s left knee actually was doomed for a season-ending injury the moment he put on a Clippers hat at the ’09 Draft, and look at what would have happened if Blake had avoided the curse.
Seeing as Griffin was the consensus No. 1 pick well before anybody knew the draft order, this would only happen if the Clippers hadn’t won the Lottery drawing. And if that didn’t happen, the effects would be League-wide. Here are three completely made up, unfounded what-if stories:
Scenario #1 — Blake Griffin, Memphis Grizzlies
What if the Grizzlies and Clippers switched places with the first and second pick? … Griffin gets penciled in at the four next to Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay, going on to put up 14 points and nine rebounds per game as a rookie. And with no need for DeMarre Carroll with the 27th pick, Memphis grabs Toney Douglas for point guard depth behind Mike Conley … Content with their young core and the PG situation for the time being, the Grizzlies don’t show much interest in free agent Allen Iverson, and A.I. signs with the Bobcats … The Clippers don’t trade Zach Randolph, allowing him to put up another 20-and-10 season with zero All-Star talk, and with that No. 2 pick get potential immediate-impact player James Harden, a local product who Mike Dunleavy Sr. envisions playing small forward. But Harden catches a bad case of turf toe early in the preseason, and by the time he makes his L.A. debut, he looks like Bonzi Wells on a diet-cheat day … Oklahoma City drafts Hasheem Thabeet third, and he gets less PT than Serge Ibaka.
Scenario #2 — Blake Griffin, Sacramento Kings
What if the Lottery balls bounced entirely according to plan, and the Kings capitalized on having the League’s worst record? … Blake starts at PF next to center Jason Thompson, averaging 16 ppg and 7 rpg. Still in need of a point guard, the Kings do a sign-and-trade for Ray Felton where the cash-strapped Bobcats get Kenny Thomas‘ expiring contract … Feeling they can get an impact player at No. 2, the Wizards keep their pick and take Tyreke Evans. Forced to stay in Minnesota, Randy Foye becomes depressed, starts writing poetry and gets four neck tattoos. (Oh wait, that was Rashad McCants.) … The Clippers take a chance on Ricky Rubio at No. 3, and he comes to the States right away, although slated to play off the bench behind Baron Davis … OKC takes Thabeet fourth, Minnesota takes Harden fifth, and Memphis takes Jonny Flynn sixth.
Scenario #3 — Blake Griffin, Oklahoma City Thunder
What if the hometown team got its chance for the storybook beginning, with Memphis second, Washington third, and L.A. fourth? … Playing the LeBron-in-Ohio role for the Thunder at the box office, Blake doesn’t even have the pressure of saving the franchise because Kevin Durant is already there. With defenses focused on KD, Blake puts up 17 points and 10 boards a night and wins Rookie of the Year … The Grizzlies take Thabeet second, and Washington trades the No. 3 pick to Minnesota, who takes Rubio. (He still doesn’t play in the NBA in ’09-10.) But able to land a slightly better player in the deal, the Wizards get off to a good start and Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton are too happy to have a play-gunfight … The Clippers decide to go with Jordan Hill at No. 4, and hire Mo Taylor as a special assistant in charge of teaching him the ropes of being a bust.