Here’s some advice for the Thunder.
Let Blake Griffin have his moment tonight. Let the Oklahoma City crowd cheer and cheer till its collective hearts are content when Griffin’s name is announced during pre-game introductions. Let Griffin be the last Los Angeles Clippers starter announced and let some time pass before turning down the lights for the Thunder.
Griffin deserves it.
The team’s policy, though, is to “treat all visiting player introductions the same,” according to a Thunder official. The team doesn’t “do anything different for any one player.”
Here’s the thing. Griffin isn’t just any other player. Griffin grew up in Oklahoma City. He starred just down the road at OU. He’s become an All-Star and one of the league’s most electrifying players just 56 games into his career. And he’s well on his way to running away with the Rookie of the Year award.
The Thunder can’t turn a blind eye to all of that.
Since relocating from Seattle, the Thunder has been incredibly in tune to the ins and outs of the Oklahoma City community. Tonight’s highly anticipated game presents another opportunity for the franchise to demonstrate that awareness. Griffin holds a special place in people’s hearts. He might not play for the home team but he is the most acclaimed hometown kid the NBA has ever seen.
The Thunder has dared to be different in many ways. Game nights still begin with a prayer, continuing a tradition established by the Hornets, who are the only other franchise to honor His holiness before tip-off. Reserving a few extra seconds for this state’s newest NBA son isn’t in any way unreasonable. Not for this night.
This is Griffin’s pro debut in his hometown. He was hurt, nursing a season-long knee injury, when the Clippers came to town last year. The time to treat Griffin like any other player is when L.A. returns on April 2, not tonight.
Griffin has tried to deflect the attention. He says tonight is not about him. That, of course, is baloney. This game is all about Griffin. Fans have had Feb. 22 circled on their calendars since August. And now that it’s here, the roar that fills the arena formerly known as the Ford Center could likely be louder for Griffin than Thunder star Kevin Durant.
Griffin said throughout All-Star Weekend that he hasn’t thought much about the reception he’ll receive, saying “hopefully they’re welcoming.” On Tuesday morning at his team’s shoot-around, Griffin still wasn’t quite sure how he would show his appreciation for applause that is sure to be more than a little welcoming.
“Maybe a little wave,” Griffin said.
Here’s hoping the Thunder sets aside ample time during pre-game intros for more than a little wave. The moment is much too big for that.