Griffin will try to make a strong first impression when the Clippers open their season against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on Wednesday night.
The Clippers drafted Griffin first overall out of Oklahoma last year in the hopes that he can help turn around a moribund franchise that is dwarfed greatly by the co-tenant Lakers.
The forward didn’t even get a chance to start the process, fracturing his left kneecap in Los Angeles’ final preseason game and sitting out the entire season. In turn, the Clippers went 29-53 and missed the playoffs for the 15th time in 17 seasons and fourth in a row.
Griffin is back with renewed enthusiasm, and an improved shooting touch. He averaged 17.3 points and 12.3 rebounds in six preseason games.
“Sitting out all year really gave me kind of a different perspective and it really put a fire inside of me and made me realize my love for the game,” he said. “I’m really excited.”
Kaman led Los Angeles with a career-high 18.5 points per game, while averaging 9.3 rebounds.
With Kaman and Griffin providing a strong presence up front, the Clippers are hoping Eric Gordon can solidify the backcourt after helping the U.S. national team win the World Championships last month.
Gordon, the seventh overall pick in 2008, averaged 16.9 points last season.
“Most definitely we’ll be a whole better team than last year. It’s just a better vibe and everybody is listening,” he said. “I think the expectations will be fulfilled. We just need to keep guys healthy.”
Overseeing the hopeful Clippers is coach Vinny Del Negro, who was hired shortly after being dismissed by Chicago following a second consecutive .500 season and first-round playoff elimination.
“It will start on the defense end for us. We have to be kind of a scrappy, physical, dominant mentality type of defensive team,” Del Negro said.
Opening the season against the Trail Blazers (1-0) may not be ideal. The Clippers have dropped nine of 11 to them, including five of six at home.
Portland is opening a four-game road trip after getting its season off to a strong start Tuesday, beating Phoenix 106-92 to gain a measure of revenge for its first-round playoff ouster last spring.
The Blazers haven’t started 2-0 since 2004-05.
The swingman, who averaged 10.1 points in 2009-10, is trying to build on a superb season-opening performance, scoring 19 points while pulling down 11 boards for his second career double-double. The Frenchman powered an 18-1 run over the final 5:44, scoring 11 points while sinking three 3-pointers.