Blake Griffin says Norman still feels like home
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Sunday, September 09, 2012
9/09/12 at 7:14 AM
NORMAN - Blake Griffin took a couple stationary dribbles in a corner of the Lloyd Noble Center practice gym, strode into the lane, then exploded onward and upward into a vicious, right-handed tomahawk dunk.
The Los Angeles Clippers All-Star had a new poster-ized victim. Buddy Hield, ever the freshman, thought he could actually avoid embarrassment if he jumped to challenge the dunk. He wound up a giggling mess as soon as he landed.
The scene, however, sure felt familiar.
"It's home," Griffin said during his weekend return to the University of Oklahoma. "You come back and things haven't changed that much. It's still OU basketball."
Actually, things have changed some since Griffin became the 2008-09 College Player of the Year for the Elite Eight Sooners. The coach is new. All of his old teammates are gone. The program hasn't played a postseason game of any kind since that Elite Eight loss to North Carolina.
What mattered, though, was how comfortable things felt. And how important it was to be back.
"I talk to a guy like Grant Hill who still, to this day, goes back to Duke," Griffin said of his Clippers teammate. "They have guys there playing pickup. Talking to a guy like Cole Aldrich, who still goes back to Kansas. When programs have a tradition of guys coming back and still being a part of it, I think it helps the overall vision of the program.
"It helps the current players feel more of a sense of pride, knowing there has been a long line of guys that have come before us."
"He's one of the guys that put all these banners up," OU forward Amath M'Baye said. "To come back here and show us how he did it, we get to see how hard we're supposed to work. It's good to have him here."
It was win-win. Griffin played pickup Friday, giving the left knee he injured during Olympic Team training its first real test since arthroscopic surgery July 16.
"Felt good," he reported.
Griffin's brother, Taylor, came along to hoop it up with the Sooners and even get a workout or two in. The plan was to finish by mid-Saturday afternoon, do some tailgating with the family and watch the Sooners play football against Florida A&M.
Griffin even dropped in on OU's walk-through Friday. Bob Stoops asked if he wanted to say anything, so he found himself addressing the team.
"I kept it brief," Griffin said. "I just told 'em to keep working hard. I think the main thing is if everybody is doing their job individually, then collectively it's extremely tough to stop. Everybody doing their part. That goes for basketball, football and almost any sport. That was my main talking point."
It was a nice respite with training camp just three weeks away. It was a pleasant diversion from some of the unpleasant details of his summer, like the surgery, or the Dwight Howard-Steve Nash Lakers hype, or missing out on the Olympics.
"I was looking forward to it," Griffin said. "I didn't really watch the exhibition games. I was still in denial. But watching them go through the whole Olympic process was a lot of fun. Those guys deserved it. They worked hard. They were clearly the best. I was happy for them."
On the brighter side, the Clippers added Hill, Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom to an already-blossoming team. Griffin signed a five-year extension worth a reported $95 million. Endorsement opportunities kept rolling in.
"It's gotten to the point where I really get to do the things I enjoy, which is funnier stuff, lighthearted stuff," said Griffin, a closet comedian when he was at OU.
The trip back to Norman was like a topper.
"It's always a blast to get back and see everybody," Griffin said. "I get a chance to watch the team play pickup, check out a football game. You feel like you're at home."
Original Print Headline: Griffin: Norman still feels like home
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355