The Clippers have been on a grueling road trip that has lasted eight games over the course of two weeks already. They've lost six of those eight games, and must all be exhausted heading into the All-Star break. So it's a good thing they're all going to be getting lots of rest over the weekend.
Well, not exactly all of them.
Rookie sensation Blake Griffin is embarking on what is surely the most action packed All-Star weekend that any single NBA player has ever had. He is participating in the Rookie Challenge on Friday, the Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday, and the big game itself on Sunday - a trifecta that is unprecedented in the history of the event. That is of course in addition to various practices, sponsor events, media availabilities and all of the other hoo-ha associated with the spectacle.
Griffin is the first rookie ever to participate in both the Rookie Challenge and the All-Star game itself. The rookie game, from 1994 until 1998 pitting two teams of rookies against each other, and since 2000 featuring its current format of first year players versus second year players, hasn't been around that long. The last rookie to be selected to the All-Star game was Yao Ming in 2002, and before that you have to go back to Tim Duncan in 1998. Both Yao and Duncan opted out of the rookie game in order to focus on the main event.
There have been several second year players to make an All-Star team since 2000, and a few of them played for the sophomores as well. Surprisingly, although Yao decided not to play in both games as a rookie, he did play for the sophs in 2003. Then, in 2005, both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade played for the sophomores on Friday and for the East on Sunday. However, Derrick Rose chose not to play with his classmates last year, instead playing in just the big game. So by my count, there have been three players before Griffin to play in both games during the same All-Star Weekend.
(It's interesting to note as well, the number of major stars who did NOT make an All-Star team until at least their third year in the league. Kevin Durant was not an All-Star in his second season. Nor was Dwight Howard, or Carmelo Anthony, or Chris Paul or Dirk Nowitzki.)
But Griffin is also squeezing the marquee event from All-Star Saturday, the Slam Dunk Contest, onto his packed agenda. Neither Yao nor LeBron nor DWade participated in the dunk contest, or any other All-Star Saturday competition, when they played in both games. (Both Wade and James participated in the Skills Challenge the following season, their third in the league, and Wade is a two-time winner of that event, but they did not compete on All-Star Saturday in 2005 when they were Sophs.)
There are a couple of events from the history of the Dunk Contest that seem to bode well for Griffin. In 1996, Clipper Brent Barry played in the Rookie game and won the Dunk Contest. The next year, 1997, Laker Kobe Bryant pulled off the same feat. So there's a proud tradition of LA rookies playing in the rookie game and then winning the dunk contest.
Griffin could have begged off the Rookie Challenge, as players like Duncan and Yao and Rose have done before, but that's just not in his nature. He's a kid in a candy store right now, and he's not missing out on any experience this weekend. It's in LA, he's the buzz of the league, and he has single-handedly made the dunk contest relevant again. He'll be one of the major stars of the weekend. Will it wear him out when he should be resting up for the remainder of the season?
He can rest Monday. After all, he doesn't play another game until Tuesday.