NBA free agency begins July 1. Until then, you’re going to see free agent profiles from all over the league. Where will the most notable names land? Why will they land there? For all the profiles we’ve already covered, click here.
Forget about the money. Forget about championships and accolades and everything we use in the observation of superstar athletes. They’re a lot simpler than we give them credit for. Blake Griffin is a human being. He is playing a game. Before you lock down Griffin returning to the Clippers, ask yourself this: does it seem like Blake Griffin is having fun playing for the Clippers right now?
The national conversation surrounding his team revolves around how long it can feasibly stay together without winning a championship. If he’s lucky, he’ll get to spend the next few years being berated by Chris Paul. And if he’s not, Paul will leave and he’ll struggle to make the playoffs in a loaded Western Conference. His team’s medical staff has never seemed particularly adept at managing his extensive history of injuries. He doesn’t even play for his city’s favorite NBA team.
Kevin Durant has spoken about how much fun playing for the Warriors is. Dwight Howard left the Lakers largely because playing with Kobe Bryant wasn’t fun. LeBron went to Miami to win championships, but also to be with two of his good friends—Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Do not underestimate the fun factor. These players are people too. They want to enjoy their career as much as possible.
Playing for the Heat right now seems like it would be pretty fun. There’s virtually no pressure to win a championship—the city is satisfied with the two they just got. Blake would be the centerpiece of an offense like he hasn’t been since his rookie year. Erik Spoelstra would reconfigure everything around Blake’s high-post game. Hassan Whiteside would be the roller, and Blake could even do some of the ball-handling in that arrangement.
Take it from someone who knows, living in Miami is really fun. There’s just as much to do as Los Angeles, but with far less drama. Celebrities mingle with commoners more easily there than anywhere else in the world. It never gets as aggressively hot as Los Angeles does, but it never drops below 60 degrees either. If you’re cool with seven minutes of tsunami-caliber rain per day, Miami is the city for you.
So what seems more appealing: sticking around with the Clippers and getting blamed for Chris Paul’s lack of success, or taking Micky Arison’s money to live in Miami with no pressure on a basketball team geared specifically for you? What sounds more enticing, Pat Riley dropping his rings on the table, telling you how he’ll keep you healthy by getting you into the best shape of your life (like Miami does with everyone), or Doc Rivers selling you on the fifth time potentially being the charm? Would you rather be beloved in Miami or tolerated in Los Angeles?
We usually ask about things like championships and legacy with star free agents. Those things matter, of course. And I’m sure they’ll cross Blake Griffin’s mind. But quality of life matters more than any of us think it does, and Blake Griffin’s quality of life would seem to be a lot higher in Miami than it would be in Los Angeles. That’s why he’s going to leave a fifth year on the table from the Clippers and join the Heat on a four-year max deal.
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