By Lenn Robbins
You have been the home to so many exceptional people, brilliant innovators, politicians, artists, musicians, athletes, politicians and criminals. And now you can claim the greatest group of missionaries since Arnold Schwarzenegger and Co went up against Predator.
Before the NBA All-Star Game tipped off Sunday night, the NBA championship might have been decided when news broke that 2011 Rookie of the Year and six-time All-Star, Blake Griffin, had joined the Nets.
Griffin recently agreed to a buyout with the Detroit Pistons and it’s possible he spoke to Nets center DeAndre Jordan. Griffin and Jordan were teammates with Los Angeles Clippers. Or maybe he spoke to Kevin Durant, or Kyrie Irving or James Harden. Nothing wrong with that.
Models hang with models. Mercenaries hang with mercenaries.
The NBA has seen great trios in recent years starting with the Celtics’ Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to the Heat’s LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade. The league has seen a great foursome in Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Steph Curry.
But in all those cases, there was at least one home-grown player, one star that the team drafted, developed and then augmented through trade and free agency. Not these Nets.
These Nets were recruited to find and capture the franchise’s first NBA title.
Durant and Irving came over in free agency. Harden was acquired in a trade with the Rockets, who took everything except the Purell dispensers in Barclays Center. And Griffin, after agreeing to a buyout with Pistons, which will pay him $29.8 million next season, could afford the $5.9 million taxpayer mid-level exception.
The sacrifices mercenaries make.
There really was no other destination for Griffin. The one line missing on his resume is NBA champ. Harden’s resume is lacking the same. This is the team champ-less stars come to.
Griffin, 31, is not the same player he was when he entered the league as the No.1 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. He possessed such explosive athleticism the 6-foot-9, 250-pound Griffin once hurdled a car to win the Slam Dunk competition in 2011.
Let me repeat – Blake Griffin once hurdled a car. Doesn’t matter if it was a Kia.
He hasn’t been the same player since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in April 2019. But he is averaging 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 20 games. He doesn’t have to average the 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists he averaged as recently as 2018-19.
Griffin is here as insurance in case Durant, who has been hampered by a left hamstring injury, is out for an extended time. He is here to make a team that is bordering on unbeatable – the Nets have won 10-of-11 to close within one-half a game of the Philadelphia 76ers for the Atlantic Division lead – indestructible.
Griffin is here to give the Nets another body up front for a potential playoff matchup with the Heat’s Bam Adebayo or the Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo or the Sixers Joel Embiid. All of those players were drafted by their current teams.
None of the Nets superstars can claim that. They are a team of basketball mercenaries. They were brought were to hunt down and capture a title – like the reprehensible ‘sport’ known as big-game hunting.
Kind of makes you want to root for the Predator.