Karl Malone sees some of himself in Blake Griffin.
A month ago, at All-Star Weekend, I was standing at Malone's media day table when someone asked him sort of generally about the state of the game today and Malone, apparently mishearing the question, offered up the comparison.
"Without the jumping part … I'd say Blake Griffin. I like Blake. I just like the way he plays," the Utah Jazz Hall of Famer said.
Maybe that explains this homage from Griffin last week:
Malone said he first started watching Griffin after taking his son, K.J., to an Oklahoma Sooners' football camp. Malone's son eventually committed to LSU, but the Jazz legend said he continued to follow Griffin's career to this day.
"I got about 10 guys that I love to see play and if I catch them on TV, I'll watch them," he said. Among those were Griffin, Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge and Minnesota's Kevin Love. All three are power forwards and all three do something Malone appreciates.
"Big guys, forwards don't do this [enough]," he said. "I think every power forward should turn and face the basket, not [play] with their back to the basket. … When you do that, that's your mid-range game right there. And when you do that, the person who's playing you, he's scared to death by the way."
The development of Griffin's jump shot has certainly made him dangerous.
Here's a look at his shot selection during his rookie season:
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And now this season:
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As Jazz coach Ty Corbin said at practice yesterday, "If he’s hitting that perimeter shot — the way he can put it on the floor and get to the rim so quickly — it makes it difficult. Big guys who are guarding him become reluctant to close out. … The more he’s making his perimeter shot, the tougher he is to guard."
Griffin averages 24.4 points and 9.7 rebounds. In the Clippers’ wins over Utah this season, Griffin averages 32.5 points and 10.5 rebounds.
The Jazz will have to try to slow him down tonight at EnergySolutions Arena. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.
Malone, meanwhile, does see some major differences between himself and Griffin.
"No. 1, I never jumped like that. I jumped when I had to," he said.
The other big difference: Griffin's reaction to hard fouls.
"I don't like guys taking cheap shots. … I said one time on ESPN, I just want Blake to lose his mind one day. I said I'll pay his fine," Malone said, adding that it never took "too much to get me riled up."
— Aaron Falk