Over the past few months, for all the Los Angeles Clippers good work, the name Blake Griffin isn't too far away from any conversation.
As one of the 'Big 3' for the Clippers alongside Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, the power forward carries a lot of expectations when he plays and in turn, so does the franchise.
Despite making the playoffs every year since Griffin's rookie season, it could be argued the California franchise has underwhelmed given the talents at their disposal; having never made it past the Western Conference semi-finals.
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Their fortunes seemingly got a whole lost worse when Griffin broke his hand after an altercation with a team employee over the festive period.
The 26-year-old hasn't been seen on the hardwood since the Clippers victory over city rivals, the Lakers, on Christmas day. However, his team has flourished in his absence, including a nine-game winning streak immediately following his injury as well as emerging victorious in seven out of eight contests from late January into early February.
In light of the Clippers' excellent form and Griffin's internal misdemeanor, speculation regarding a trade reached fever-pitch ahead of the deadline. Those rumours proved toothless, but the talk of the Clippers operating better without Griffin continues to circulate.
Point guard Austin Rivers has admitted that the Western contenders seem to move the ball better without the five-time All-Star, but still reserved some special praise for his teammate.
“You’ve got to understand, because we haven’t played with Blake, our ball movement has been a lot better,” Rivers said. “I think we learned a mutual thing where it’s like ‘alright, listen Blake, since you’ve been out, we’ve learned to move the ball better, so when you come back, we’re still going to play like that. But now we have you back, we’re still going to play through you at the same time.’ So I think we both have learned things.
“There’s times when it’s obvious we need Blake, so I think it’s a learning experience for both of us. There’s no way we could be worse with Blake Griffin back on our team. It’s not possible. He’s one of the best players in the NBA, so we can’t wait to have him back.”
CP3 - another gala name in the NBA and Griffin's teammate - also asserted his belief that without the Oklahoma-native, winning a championship is near-on impossible.
Paul said: "We can't win a championship without Blake. That's the only reason we play.
"I don't care if he gets back the day before the playoffs. We're playing for a championship, and there's no championship without Blake Griffin. There's not one."
It appears as though the Clippers locker room is united in its support for Griffin and with the form they've shown, that can only be good news for their prospects as the postseason draws closer.