As the 2016-17 NBA season came to its conclusion, Blake Griffin pondered his future in the league. While many teams surely would be seeking the talents of the ultra-talented power forward during his period of free agency in the summer of 2017, Griffin was intent on letting his career-long team, the Los Angeles Clippers, get the first pitch.
Griffin was drafted by the organization and has played every minute of his professional basketball career in a Clippers uniform. During his tenure, Griffin has been a vital piece in the downtrodden franchise’s longest stretch of success ever achieved, making six straight playoff appearances for the first time in franchise history. He also managed to pile up personal accolades in the process, starting off by winning Rookie of the Year and building on it by being selected to five All-Star teams as well as four All-NBA rosters.
Both the Clippers and Griffin benefited greatly from their relationship with one another. Griffin used his position as a star player in Los Angeles to launch his acting career both in commercials and feature films on his way to becoming a household name. His stardom served to legitimize the longtime laughing stock Clippers in the eyes of many and opened the door to publicity and recognition scarcely imaginable for a team always stuck in the shadow of their more successful counterpart, the Lakers, prior to his arrival.
It was with all these factors in mind that the Clippers and Blake Griffin agreed on a five-year, over 170 million dollar contract this past July. Blake was set up to be the face of the franchise for the foreseeable future, and most likely would see all of his prime years in a Clippers uniform.
While playing out his career with the team that drafted him may sound like a storybook ending to the relationship between the Clippers and their star player, this is 2018, and the never-a-dull-moment NBA no longer operates by the predictable conventions of other professional sports. The era staying in one uniform your entire career, characterized by the likes of Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, is all but dead, and this past week Blake Griffin was traded from Los Angeles to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for a slew of young players and draft picks.
This move would have been shocking in any other era of the NBA, but 2018 is yet another entry into the largest period of star-player movement imaginable. Blake Griffin joins Demarcus Cousins, former teammate Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, and Isaiah Thomas, among others, as bonafide stars who have switched their uniforms for one reason or another over the past year.
The NBA has lost all of its sentimentality, as fan favorites are traded or opt to leave at a moment’s notice seemingly every couple of weeks, and nobody outside of the league’s premier four or five players seem immune to trade talks. Like so much else in the modern NBA, this trend can be accredited to Kevin Durant, Stepehen Curry, and the Golden State Warriors.
Unlike previous eras, General Managers are evaluating their rosters and in almost every case can effectively conclude they will not dethrone the Warriors for the title. The Warriors are simply too talented for any roster to feel confident against, and in a league where mediocre is the worst thing to be, many General Managers are opting to blow it all up rather than get swept by the Warriors on their route to another title.
Many see their best option as planning for the future, when these Warriors eventually fall apart. They are hoarding their draft picks and making rosters as young and talented as possible, while making sure they do not win enough games to jeopardize the next years draft pick.
While this new trend of hyper-player-movement can be frustrating to fanbases, players, and coaches alike, I do not think it is the new regular for the league but more a wildly interesting period of time that will come to an end whenever the Warriors reign of terror over the NBA does.