When Chris Paul said the Los Angeles Clippers will "go as Blake goes," the acceptance of expectations was clear on his end. But until that belief emanated from the mouth of the man Paul was speaking about, Blake Griffin, there would be whispers.
A week later, Griffin addressed his teammate's comment directly to ESPN Los Angeles.
"[Paul] has a huge role on this team," Griffin said Thursday. "He's been the guy who has closed out a lot of games late for us.
"But in my mind, this is the year I need to step into that role and really help him shoulder that load. I'll be right there with him at the end of games, being the guy that he can always count on."
For Griffin, expanding his game will be key even though it's unclear how exactly first-year coach Doc Rivers will use him in what should be a deadly pick-and-roll tandem. Griffin said he's working on his shooting stroke because he expects to see the ball on the elbows a lot more in the 2013-14 season. He'll need to make defenses consider him a bigger threat from mid-range.
Though Griffin shot 54 percent from the floor last season, it'll be hard to hold that steady if he's extending his range. At the same time, he wants to be more aggressive, and Rivers has already told him that's expected of him.
The Clippers added Alvin Gentry as a lead assistant, and it's expected his past experience with a one-two combo of Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire will be an important resource for Los Angeles' pick-and-roll game.
Griffin and Paul have had growing pains since the point guard's arrival two summers ago. Griffin's usage percentage has dropped a tad in each of his three seasons since the ball-dominating guard joined the Clippers, so working off the ball will be paramount. At the same time, Griffin's offensive and defensive ratings have both incrementally increased, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
But in the midst of the improvements, there has remained one-dimensional talk about the dunk-happy picture of Griffin. It's been forgotten the forward averaged 18.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game in 2012-13, his third season.
Paul said a week ago that both he and Griffin have grown. Even though they've sometimes come to disagree, both have already admitted they need each other.
Because of that, the Clippers' offseason looks promising.