LOS ANGELES(AP) —The Los Angeles Clippers didn’t need time after the draft lottery to decide who to take with the No. 1 pick.
They settled on Blake Griffin long ago.
“I’d say we made the decision June 2008,” assistant general manager Neil Olshey said Wednesday at the team’s practice facility in Playa Vista. “When he decided to go back to Oklahoma, that if we got the No. 1 pick in ’09, he’d be the guy.”
The Clippers earned the right to select the All-American forward in the June 25 draft Tuesday when they won the lottery, moving up from the third-best chance.
On Wednesday, the Clippers strategically placed pictures of Griffin on their Web site to advertise ticket sales for next season. Team president Andy Roeser refused to say what Los Angeles would do with the pick Tuesday night, but Olshey wanted fans to understand the Clippers are committed to winning.
“We went through a very difficult season. I don’t think that our record is indicative of our roster composition,” Olshey said. “I think that Blake was clearly the No. 1 choice.
“It was important to give clarity to our fans to understand that we’ve spent the last month licking our wounds, finding out what we did wrong for the last 82 games and now it’s about the future. Today is the first step towards making sure we’re not back in the lottery for any other reason other than picking up Minnesota’s (future) pick that we’re still owed.”
It will be the third time the Clippers have had the No. 1 pick. The last time they made a blunder by selecting center Michael Olowokandi in 1998, who averaged 8.3 points in his career and is out of the NBA. The Clippers also had the top pick in 1988 and took Danny Manning.
Griffin figures to be a much better investment for the team. He averaged 22.7 points and led the nation with 30 double-doubles and 14.4 rebounds per game as a sophomore at Oklahoma.
Olshey believes Griffin can make an impact as a rookie. The woeful Clippers franchise has made the NBA playoffs only four times in team history. Because of the caliber of players returning to the team next season, including point guard Baron Davis , Griffin won’t be expected to be the team’s savior, Olshey noted.
But he can certainly contribute to improvement. The Clippers finished 19-63 this past season.
“I just think Blake’s decision to go back to school, this was his rookie year,” Olshey said. “He’s going to have a little bit of a learning curve in terms of learning the league, but he’s got the physicality to play right away.
“He’s got an expanding skill level. He can make an impact on both ends of the floor.”