LAS VEGAS — His uniform number has changed, but Blake Griffin is the same player you remember.
Before your eyes could fully adjust to Griffin’s new No. 32 jersey, the former Oklahoma star had already wowed the crowd inside the Thomas & Mack Center in his NBA Summer League debut on Monday night.
He scored the first seven points for his Los Angeles Clippers and made his first eight field-goal attempts on an array of post moves and mid- and long-range jumpers. Griffin would go on to score 27 points with 12 rebounds, both game-highs, while playing just 30 minutes in the Clippers’ 93-82 win over the rival Los Angeles Lakers.
"I’d say a B-minus,” Griffin said when asked to grade his performance. "We won. That’s great. But I did some things wrong defensively. That’s the hardest part for me.”
But while Griffin won over the fans with his first few minutes, it was a six-minute stretch to end the second quarter that likely will stick in the minds of league scouts, coaches and general managers sprinkled throughout the arena.
With 6:10 remaining in the first half, Griffin sealed Lakers forward Chinemelu Elonu so forcefully he knocked him to the floor. Griffin finished with a routine two-handed dunk. Three minutes later, Griffin led a fast break and gracefully dished to a streaking Nik Caner-Medley on the right wing for an opportunity for a three-point play.
Then there was the drive to his left from the right block around forward Aron Baynes and the impressive hanging finish through traffic. There was the fundamental pump fake that froze his defender and created space for Griffin to penetrate and pitch to DeAndre Jordan for another three-point play opportunity. And of course there was the authoritative rejection of guard Taylor Rochestie at the rim as the Lakers guard tried to knife his way to a buzzer-beating layup with 0.6 seconds remaining in the half.
Griffin did so much on this night, it’s understandable how the swat was omitted from Griffin’s final stat line.
"He did everything we expected him to do,” said Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy.
Griffin connected on 11 of 15 shot attempts, including one highly discussed 3-pointer, and went 4-for-8 from the free-throw line.
It was Griffin’s shooting touch, something critics regularly questioned during both his seasons with the Sooners, that had the league buzzing Monday night.