I don't get picked last at the park anymore
Join Date: Oct 2008
Chad Ford Article on Blake Griffin RE: Pre-Draft Workout
SAN FRANCISCO -- Every year, the top prospects in the draft leave behind the comforts of college and head out to workout sites in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Florida and elsewhere, looking for an edge that might put them in a better draft position.
They hire such specialists as personal trainers, ex-coaches, chefs and former Navy SEALs.
The techniques differ from player to player, but the basic goal is the same: to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing and thriving in the NBA.
For the past decade, I've taken a pre-draft tour to the top sites. I've seen Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Greg Oden and a host of others prepare for the NBA draft. This year is no different. Over the course of the next few weeks, I'll be traveling throughout the U.S. to check in on the pre-draft workouts of the top prospects in the draft.
We'll see Hasheem Thabeet, James Harden, Jordan Hill, Earl Clark, Jrue Holiday, DeJuan Blair, Austin Daye, Darren Collison, Nick Calathes and a host of others over the next two weeks. The trip will end at the Chicago pre-draft combine, where the 60 top prospects in the draft compete in a number of skill and physical challenges in front of every GM in the league.
The tour began this week, just one week before the May 19 lottery, when I dropped in on Oklahoma's Blake Griffin, the consensus No. 1 pick in the draft.
Griffin undergoes a unique workout in San Francisco. The sessions are quite secretive, and we won't be able to share all the details until the debut of an upcoming Blake Griffin feature on ESPN and ESPN.com.
But here are a few observations:
• Many top picks at this time of year are getting fitted for their suit on draft night and flying around the country trying to ink endorsement deals. Griffin is an exception. He's more concerned with dominating right out of the gate.
Griffin said last year that he didn't declare for the 2008 NBA draft because he didn't feel he was ready for the league. This year he knows he is. And he's determined to prove it.
On the court, his workout is run by former Spurs and Sonics head coach Bob Hill, whose regimen on Monday highlighted a couple of talents we didn't see from Griffin when he was at Oklahoma.
First, Griffin appears to be a much better ballhandler than your average big man, excelling at two-ball and three-ball drills as well as change-of-direction drills. In fact, he had a better handle than anyone else on the court, including combo guard Anthony Goods.
Second, Griffin can shoot the ball with range. He's no Ray Allen, but he showed the ability to consistently hit the college 3-point shot in the workout. If he can just make a 15-foot jumper in the NBA, he could be unstoppable.
The rest of the stuff you already know. Matched up against another physical specimen, UConn's Jeff Adrien, Griffin showed his quickness, strength and explosive leaping ability on a number of post and shell drills. He also played more physical defense than we saw from him at Oklahoma.
Griffin was pretty open about his biggest perceived weakness: his lack of defense at Oklahoma.
"I was on a team where I couldn't get in foul trouble," Griffin said. "Coach [Jeff] Capel was pretty clear that I needed to be on the floor. So I was always conscious, maybe too conscious, about picking up fouls.
"I definitely [think] that it's an area of my game that needs improvement. But I feel like I'm going to be a good defender in the NBA. I like to play defense."
• Griffin looks like the closest thing to Superman the NBA has seen since Dwight Howard, and I really got to see that up close in his workouts with fitness trainer Frank Matrisciano, who has been called "Hell's Trainer." Whatever Matrisciano threw his way, Griffin took it, excelled at it and was waiting for more.
"It's really pushed me," Griffin said. "I want to be challenged. I want to be the best, and I know that means I have to be ready physically and mentally for the league. When I met Frank, I thought this could help get me there. It was a huge help last season and I think it will continue to give me an edge as I prepare for summer league. I'm not doing this to get drafted. I'm doing this so I'm ready for the NBA."
• Everyone has been asking me about Griffin's height. I didn't see him measured. Coach Hill said he's 6-foot-10 in shoes, though if I were to guess, I'd say 6-foot-9. He was noticeably taller than Kenny Thomas, who's listed as 6-foot-7. Either way, I don't think it's going to matter -- regardless of how he measures, he's the No. 1 pick.
• While people close to him say Griffin is a practical joker off the court (he once said he wanted to host "Saturday Night Live" someday), when it comes to workouts he is fiercely competitive, focused and anxious to push himself as hard as he can.
"There can be a lot of nonsense in this business," said Hill. "But for Blake, this is serious. He wants to be the best and he's willing to work tirelessly to make it happen. I've just been amazed at how professionally he's handling all of this. He gets that it takes hard work to be great in the league and he's willing to do it."
Please grace us with the #1 pick.