Now that the celebrity game is over, the NBA All-Star Weekend can focus on actual basketball with actual basketball players. The first step in that direction is the NBA All-Star Rookie Challenge, taking place tonight at Staples Center. The man of the hour is hometown hero Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, whose national profile is rising as we speak.
Before the game, Chris Webber on the TNT broadcast called Griffin "a humble beast" and noted, "He started his career off the right way by having an engine that never stops running." Then, Craig Sager interviewed Griffin before tip off, asking the rookie why he was playing in this game when he already is scheduled to participate in the slam dunk contest Saturday and the All-Star Game on Sunday. "It's my home city, and I wanted to come out and play with these guys," said Griffin, "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Griffin even has a Subway advertisement, which aired during the first half. Griffin says in the ad, "On training days, I need a breakfast that keeps up dunk after dunk after dunk." Griffin started the game, but left early after taking an elbow from Landry Fields to the nose. Griffin returned shortly thereafter, and got his first dunk off an alley-oop pass from John Wall with 13:44 of the first half. About a minute later, Griffin added another alley-oop dunk.