We’re inching closer and closer to the NBA’s trade deadline, which falls on Feb. 8 this year. Despite the fact that we have more than a week to go, the bar has been set for the biggest trade that will go down, as the Los Angeles Clippers decided to send Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons for a package that included, among other things, Tobias Harris and a future first-round pick.
It’s a stunning move for a few reasons, but above all, it was such a shock because the Clippers made it clear to Griffin over the summer that he was set to be the face of their franchise forever. Griffin was set to hit free agency over the summer and was in line for a massive payday, which is generally how things happen when you are very good at basketball.
The Clippers, reeling from the fact that they almost certainly could not let him go after Chris Paul got traded to the Houston Rockets, decided to go all-out in an attempt to bring him back. We know this because of a story written by ESPN’s Zach Lowe in October which painted the picture of the most bizarre free agency meeting we’ve ever seen.
When Griffin arrived at Staples Center for his free-agency pitch meeting on July 1, he found the Clippers had erected something of a maze for him with temporary walls. Griffin walked his 3-year-old son, Ford, through the art gallery-style corridors, and found photos hanging at each turn: Griffin on his green Huffy bike with his brother, Taylor, when they were kids; Griffin playing in college; Griffin as a Clipper.
The maze spit Griffin out onto a couch overlooking the Staples Center court, above the lower bowl. Crowd noise pumped in. The team’s public address announcer declared the Clippers were retiring Griffin’s number. Team employees raised an actual banner into the rafters — a vision of the future they wanted.
Lee Jenkins made sure to remind us of the absurdity of it all on Monday following his trade, noting the choir they had singing as his jersey was raised.
There were also the story of the shirts the team wore during the presentation, which is important to think about every now and then because they never cease being incredibly … I don’t know, but it’s something.
This really is amazing, the fact that the Clippers were so, for lack of a better word, shameless about doing whatever it could to convince Griffin that he is going to be the man in Los Angeles for the rest of his career. They didn’t just pitch him on a future where he’s going to be the centerpiece of the organization, they pitched him on a future where he is the face of the Clippers organization for years to come.
Now, seven or so months later, Griffin has been sent packing and will join Detroit in a move that no one saw coming. There are going to be plenty of questions going forward about how doing something like this impacts the team in free agent negotiations going forward, but for now, let’s reminisce on the way the Clippers convinced Griffin to stay in Los Angeles.