Freshman forward Blake Griffin addresses a variety of topics each week, some related to basketball, others not.
UP TO DATE ON BLAKE
OU's first freshman to earn first-team all-conference honors since Wayman Tisdale in 1983
Also named to the Big 12 All-Rookie Team
Averaged 16.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists in his 13 full Big 12 games
Has recorded nine double-doubles on the season (averaging 19.1 points and 14.0 boards in those contests)
Ranks eighth in Big 12 in scoring (15.2), fourth in rebounding (9.2) and third in field goal percentage (.568)
|| Entry No. 4 | Thursday, March 13
Last Wednesday's game in Stillwater was bittersweet for me. I had surgery on my knee just three days earlier and I wanted to play at Oklahoma State so badly. I was doing rehab all that day and I went into the gym around 2:30 to get some shots up after the team had already left for the game. After I shot some, I started to dribble around and do more and more stuff - like running, stopping, jumping, turning, twisting - to see how everything felt. My knee felt fine, so I called Alex Brown (our trainer) and Dr. Schnebel to see if they'd let me play. I told them that everything felt good. They said that I probably could play, but they didn't want to risk it and thought it'd be better if I didn't.
So I ended up staying in Norman and watching the game from the dorms with one of my friends. I was probably more nervous for that game than I was for any other one this year - even more than the Texas Tech game in January that I missed with an injury to my other knee (at least I was in the building for that one). Wednesday was a little different, because I couldn't do anything to help the team against OSU. But our guys did a great job and I caught myself yelling at the TV a bunch of times. I had to settle myself down. It turned out to be a good decision to hold me out. I was really proud of how the team went into Gallagher-Iba and came out with the 12-point win. I wish I could have been there.
THE MISSOURI GAME
I was able to play in Saturday's home game against Missouri. I approached it the same way I approached every other game. I did everything I normally do, except I had to come off the bench and try to contribute that way. I was pretty confident with my knee, because I had tested it out really well in practice the previous day. I felt like I had a pretty good practice for having just had surgery five days earlier and I was confident of what I could do in the game.
Once I got out on the court, I think I was a little limited. My first step wasn't quite as quick and I couldn't jump as high. But other than that, I didn't feel like I had any rust or anything from being out a few days. We played a good second half and were able to get a win against a tough Missouri team to send David Godbold and Longar out as winners in their final home game. My knee continues to feel better and better.
HEADING INTO THE POSTSEASON
We've won three in a row and we're playing pretty well. But we have to remain focused and realize that our season isn't over yet. We need to come out on Friday and play like we've been playing - as a team and with everybody stepping up and playing hard for two halves. That's what we really have to concentrate on.
I'm really excited about the postseason. It was always fun for me in high school. But this is a different stage. In high school, until you got to the state tournament, it wasn't "loser go home." You could afford to lose a game. Now, if we don't win on Friday, we're eliminated from the Big 12 Tournament and will be coming back home. With every win in Kansas City, we potentially enhance our position in the NCAA Tournament.
This is the best time of year. You've got all these games going on with all the conference tournaments and then the NCAAs next week. It's fun to play in tournaments with the quick turnarounds in between games. Once the NCAA Tourney rolls around, everyone's going to kind of have a desperation mentality. Every game has the potential to be your last of the season. And for some guys, it has the potential to be the last game of their careers. The stakes get raised to another level.
With so many games this time of year, it gets pretty tough trying to balance basketball and school work. When you throw in a bunch of injury rehab time, it's even more difficult. Last week, for example, I was in the training room doing leg exercises and getting treatment any time I wasn't in class. Staying on top of your academics is tough, but it can be done.
The hardest part for me is concentrating when I'm doing my school work. I have a tendency to always be thinking about basketball. I'll be thinking about our last game or I'll spend a lot of time thinking ahead to our next game. It's hard for me to stay focused on the books during the season.
If our team doesn't play well in a game, or if I don't do what I'm supposed to do individually in a game, I'll think about it until the next time we play. A lot of times I'll go home and sit down and watch TV and just try not to think about it. But inevitably I'll relive the game or think back to certain plays.
Bad games even keep me up at night. After some games I might only get like three hours of sleep - games like USC and Stephen F. Austin. (Actually, nobody on our team got much sleep after the Stephen F. Austin game because we had a midnight practice.) You can't get to sleep, then you finally do, and when you wake up you come to the realization, "We really lost last night." You hope it was a dream but realize it wasn't.
COLORADO OR BAYLOR
It doesn't matter to me which team we play on Friday in Kansas City. Baylor is the No. 5 seed and they played us really tough in both of our wins against them. Colorado is the No. 12 seed and beat us in Boulder. I think a lot of our guys would love another shot at Colorado just because of how poorly we played at their place. Either way, it will be tough. Every game in the Big 12 Tournament will be a battle. All we need to worry about is concentrating on what we do and the things we can control. I think we'll do well if we can manage that.
In my first blog about a month ago, I commented that I wasn't a big fan of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. But since then I've been doing a little more research. I've read some things on the Internet on Obama and the more I read the more I kind of like him and his policies. I researched his education and what he stands for. He's obviously a smart guy. I might have to cast a vote for him. We'll see. I need to do some research on John McCain, too. I want to be informed before I make my final decision.
If you're a fan of basketball and a fan of Will Ferrell, I'd recommend seeing "Semi-Pro." I caught it last week and I enjoyed it. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd probably rate it a 7 or an 8 - it just depends on your sense of humor. Will Ferrell is one of my favorite actors, along with Will Smith and Denzel Washington. It seems like they can't put out a bad movie. Anyway, go check out "Semi-Pro" if you have time.
|| Entry No. 3 | Wednesday, March 5
THE INJURY AGAINST TEXAS A&M
It's been a tough last few days. We beat Texas A&M by 27 points on Saturday, which was tremendous, but I injured my right knee early in the game and had surgery on Sunday. I'm probably looking at missing our last two regular season games against OSU and Missouri. We'll see.
I remember going up for a defensive rebound about five minutes into Saturday's game, coming down and starting to turn around to run up court. I kind of got tangled up with one of the A&M players and got elbowed. It caused me to lose my balance and I fell down. As I was going down, my knee turned inward and I felt something with my kneecap. I immediately knew something was wrong. My first thought was, "No, not again." I got up and somehow made my way down the court and played a few seconds until the next whistle. As I got to the bench, I told Coach Capel that it felt similar to the injury I had at Kansas with my other knee. I was really scared that my season could be over.
In the training room, the doctors told me they thought I tore some cartilage and that I was done for the day. I asked them if they could just tape me up and let me go back into the game. I must have been pretty convincing, because that's what they did. They taped me up, put a sleeve on my knee and I was able to play a good chunk of the rest of the game.
I had an MRI on Saturday night and it showed that I did in fact tear the medial meniscus in my knee. They scheduled me for Sunday morning surgery and, to be honest, I was a little scared just because I had never had surgery before. I didn't know what to expect.
The doctors told me that there was a chance the cartilage tear could be repaired, but they wouldn't know until they got in there and could look at it. They said if it could be repaired, the procedure would mean I'd be done for the rest of the season. If it was not repairable, they would just remove the pieces that were torn and I'd be able to play again, probably in a couple of weeks.
I remember waking up from the surgery and asking if they had repaired it. I was really groggy from the anesthesia, but I remember them telling me that they couldn't repair it and had to clean out the torn pieces. I don't think I even had a response -- I was so out of it.
Once I became coherent again, I decided I was glad the torn cartilage wasn't able to be repaired. I wouldn't have been able to take missing the postseason. I started some rehab exercises on Sunday night and, after dealing with some pretty intense pain on Monday (it felt like somebody stabbed me in the knee in three different spots), I was able to get on the court and shoot some free throws during practice. It was feeling even better on Tuesday and I continue to spend significant time in the training room rehabbing.
THE WORST PART ABOUT MY INJURY
To me, the worst part about being injured is not being able to play. It's hard to explain how difficult it is to be in the training room doing rehab exercises instead of being on the practice court or playing in games. It's a feeling of extreme helplessness. We've got two huge games left in the regular season and I can't do much to help our team.
On a personal note, it's especially disappointing that I won't get to play at OSU on Wednesday. I've always wanted to play at Gallagher-Iba. The two places where I wanted to play the most this year were at Kansas and at Oklahoma State. I'm going to miss the OSU game in Stillwater and I only got to play a few minutes at Kansas. It's a definite disappointment.
THE DEFENSE AGAINST TEXAS A&M
I didn't really think about it too much at the time, but the more and more I relive our game against Texas A&M, the more our performance impresses me. It was a low-scoring game when I got hurt about five minutes in. When the doctors were examining me in the training room, I heard the television commentators say that A&M hadn't scored in about three or four minutes. That was with nine minutes left in the first half. Well, not only did they not score the rest of the half, but they didn't score for the first few minutes of the second half, either. I think they missed 20 shots in a row. I'm not saying that we defended at the highest level for that entire stretch of 16 minutes when they didn't score, but for the most part we played really well. We were solid throughout the whole game, not just in spurts. That was a big win for us. We've got to keep that momentum going.
|| Entry No. 2 | Thursday, Feb. 21
What a wild five days. Our last two games against Texas Tech and Baylor have really tested our emotions. It's like we've been on a roller coaster with how up and down we've been. From playing really well at certain points to not playing nearly as well as we should, and then from thinking you're at the end of your rope to having guys step up and hit big shots that result in pure joy - it's definitely been crazy. We were able to pull out two clutch wins that we really needed.
It's hard to describe the feeling after these last two games because on the one hand you're so happy that you won but on the other hand you know that you could have and should have played better. But then you also feel good that you battled hard and were able to put yourself in a position to come up with that big play at the end of the game. It's safe to say that David Godbold and Tony Crocker came up huge for us with their 3-point shots.
Games like that definitely boost your confidence a little bit and they also illustrate the importance of never giving up and always playing until the very last second. You never know what can happen. That's been a big lesson for us to learn.
We were up and down at Texas Tech on Saturday. We played in spurts. Sometimes we played really well and at other times, like at the end of the first half, we made some mistakes and dug ourselves a hole. I think it was a challenging game for us mentally and I was proud of our team. We were on the road, we were down and we just kept trying to fight back. It really showed how mentally tough we can be at times.
When we were down by one with 10 seconds left, Coach Capel drew up a play in which Longar Longar was going to set a high ball screen for Austin Johnson and for A.J. to penetrate and try to get to the rim. I was going to be down low to rebound and Longar was going to stay back in case A.J. needed to kick it back to him. Longar had just hit a 15 or 17-footer on his previous attempt.
It was a really good set-up, but it didn't go the way we planned. When I saw things weren't unfolding like we had them drawn up, I remember thinking, "Uh oh, this isn't good." I started to step toward A.J. to see if I could get free and maybe get the ball, but I saw him pass it to David. David did a good job of being aware and stepping out to call for the ball when A.J. was in trouble.
When David went up for the shot, I tried to get around my man and position myself in case he missed it. It went in and I almost didn't believe it at first. I had kind of fallen and I remember looking up at the last second and seeing the ball go through the net. It was crazy! It was like one of those happy endings you see in a movie.
THE SHOT -- CROCKER STYLE
Tuesday's game against Baylor was nuts. I hadn't experienced anything quite like that, especially toward the end when it was just back and forth. A lot of people have asked me about the game and the word I keep using is "crazy."
We were playing so well in the first half and were up 10 at halftime. Then we came out in the second half and didn't do well at all. They made their run and tied it on Curtis Jerrells' shot at the buzzer. It was deflating to see that shot go in as the horn sounded.
We regrouped for overtime but then they scored the first seven points. We came back and cut into the lead with some big 3-pointers by A.J. and Crocker. Then when we got the ball back and were down by three, Crock hit that amazing 3-point shot and got fouled with seven seconds left. I saw him double-pump and let it go and I was like "Please, go in!" It was similar to the Tech game because as I came across the lane I turned around and just watched the ball drop in. I couldn't believe it. Then he hit the free throw to put us up by one.
It wasn't looking too good for us when Jerrells got fouled with a second left, but fortunately he missed both free throws and Kevin Rogers missed the putback after he came from the other side of the lane. When that horn finally sounded, I remember thinking, "Thank God, it's finally over."
Coach Capel really didn't say a whole lot to us in the locker room after the game. He just said, "I don't know how you guys do it, but you pulled it out again and it was a great win." He told us we had Wednesday off. We needed it.
It was great to have a vocal crowd like we had against Baylor. Anytime you have a crowd like that, it makes it very difficult for the visiting team, makes it tough for them to communicate and things of that nature. The place wasn't packed, but it was so loud that you'd have guessed that it was completely sold out. It was especially loud on those last two free throws by Jerrells. I mean, it was loud to me so I can just imagine what it was like to him trying to concentrate on the line. So I give our fans a lot of credit. They helped us get that win. We appreciate that more than they probably know.
|| Entry No. 1 | Wednesday, Feb. 13
THE FRESHMAN CLASS
I'm fortunate to be part of a very deep and talented national freshman class. If you think about the number of true freshmen around the country who have had a significant impact on college basketball this season, it's probably been a while since the game has seen a group like this.
I've gotten to know a bunch of those players pretty well over the years from the summer AAU circuit, summer camps and national all-star games. Derrick Rose of Memphis is so explosive. A lot of times he can go to the basket and dunk on someone, but he'll pass it off for a teammate instead. Big men always want to play with a point guard like that. Eric Gordon of Indiana is tough to guard. He's really physical and can score extremely well. It seems like once he gets up in the air he just hangs there and waits for you to come down. And that's when he'll make his move and score on you.
I also have a lot of respect for Kyle Singler of Duke. He was my roommate at the Nike Skills Academy prior to my senior year in high school. Off the court, he's kind of goofy -- he reminds me of Napoleon Dynamite, just a little bit cooler. On the court, I really like his game.
Michael Beasley is having an incredible year for Kansas State. Some people say he's the best player in the country. It's hard for me to argue that. It's difficult to say who the best is just because there are so many players who are good for their team. Tyler Hansbrough for North Carolina comes to mind. But I definitely put Beasley in my top three players in the country. And I definitely think he's the best freshman.
It was a lot of fun playing against Beasley when K-State came here in January, especially because he's about my size. He's a really good scorer, so it's a lot of fun to defend someone like that. On the other end, it's just as fun to go at someone as good as him. We were always guarding each other last spring at the McDonald's All-America practices and we got along well, so I was really looking forward to playing against him here at our place. It turned out to be a great game. Unfortunately, it just didn't quite go our way in the end.
He's a funny guy and we were going back and forth with each other the whole day. It wasn't anything hostile, just friendly exchanges between plays. Every time I went to the free throw line he would joke that he'd give me money if I missed it. He started at $5 on the first one and he ended up going all the way to $1 million later in the game. I was 7-for-13 from the line that day, so maybe I need to give him a call.
To the people who are wondering, my knee is doing really well. I'd say I'm at about 85 or 90 percent right now. My hope is that I'll be able to play without a brace and without it taped up in another few weeks.
I was more scared than I was in pain just because I didn't know what happened. I didn't think it was my ACL but I wasn't sure. My kneecap dislocated and quickly went back into place. I had never experienced that before. And I felt something else too. The worst part was two or three hours later when everything tightened up and the swelling got kind of bad. I was worried that night and the next morning before the MRI because I wasn't sure what the diagnosis would be.
Once we found out it was a sprained MCL, I spent a ton of time in the training room rehabbing. The doctors told me it could take up to four weeks to heal, but I was going to do whatever I could to try to make it back in two weeks so I could play against Oklahoma State. That was my target date. Alex Brown
, our trainer, did such a good job of rehabbing me and getting me treatment. I was going into the training room just about every four hours. It was tiring at times, but not being able to practice and play was a tremendous motivator.
The only issue with it right now is that it seems like I'm not able to get quite as high as I used to when I jump straight up. Because I hurt it when I went up for a rebound, I think that might be why I don't feel like I'm jumping as high when I go up for a board right now. I think I've been a little tentative and haven't been quite as reckless as I was before. Hopefully I'm back to 100 percent soon.
THE GAME OF POLITICS
I've been paying a fair amount of attention to the presidential primaries. I really think it's going to come down to Hillary Clinton
or Barack Obama
, even though I'm not really a fan of either one. My family is more of a Republican one, but I have to say that I'm just not too excited about any of the candidates. It's my first chance to vote, but I probably won't just because no candidate really stands out to me.
If I could have voted in the 2004 presidential election, I would have gone for George Bush
. In fact, if he was eligible for a third term, he'd have my vote this year. I think he's a good leader. I mean, no one's going to be perfect or make everyone happy. No matter who our president is, they are always going to be scrutinized. That kind of annoys me sometimes. People need to realize he's doing what he thinks is best. And he's listening to his advisors and members of his cabinet before making decisions. It's not just him.
I'M A "FAMILY GUY"
I don't know about everyone else, but it's safe to say I was very happy to hear the TV writers' strike is finally ending. I don't watch a ton of TV, but "Family Guy" is by far my favorite show and I'm ready for some new episodes. I've seen every one that's already aired. It's my kind of humor - just random stuff happening to a family of animated characters. And the way they make everyone sound cracks me up.
A bunch of guys on the team watch it, like my brother Taylor
, Beau Gerber
, David Godbold
and Tony Neysmith
. We've probably all seen every episode. We'll be having a conversation and someone will throw out a line from one of the shows and next thing you know everyone's reciting funny lines. It's hilarious. I'm glad to know we'll be getting some new material sometime pretty soon.
Everyone reading this is probably aware our team has lost three games in a row. I think it's a matter of focus for us. Against Texas A&M and Texas, we started pretty well and had leads at halftime before we let things get away. Last Saturday at Colorado, we didn't come out strong at all.
We need to put to put two halves together. We don't necessarily need to play incredible for two halves, we need to play solid. We have to take care of the ball and just want it more, like when we won five in a row over Arkansas, Gonzaga, West Virginia, Rice and Mount St. Mary's.
I know some people wonder why we haven't been playing like that the last few games. Sometimes all it takes is one night, one game or one practice to throw you off. I think that's the nature of the game. Losing Keith Clark
and dealing with injuries, you try not to let it affect you. A lot of times it doesn't, but sometimes it does. We're not as deep. But we're not about making excuses. That's one thing we won't do. We have to play through adversity and play harder than our opponents.
Wednesday's game against Iowa State is HUGE. Coach Capel
talks about how he doesn't really believe in must-win games, but it's a game that we need and would be a big one for us as we try to get another winning streak started. We've got to start piling up some wins if we want to keep playing in March.
Our team really benefits from having big and energetic home crowds and hopefully we'll have one against Iowa State. If we see a big turnout when we come out before the game, we'll know the fans are still behind us and haven't given up on us. Some people say we're not doing this, not doing that and that we're not very good, but a good crowd will help reassure us that we've got the support we need. It would definitely give us a lift. It's difficult to play on the road, and the reason is the fans. They create a tough environment and help apply pressure on the visiting team. That's why it's important for us to have large crowds that are really into it for the rest of the season as we try to finish strong!