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Clippers take Griffin, Rubio heads to Minnesota in NBA Draft

THE success-starved Los Angeles Clippers laid the foundations for a return to the playoffs by selecting gifted power forward Blake Griffin with the number one overall choice in the NBA Draft yesterday.

Connecticut's shot-blocking center Hasheem Thabeet was taken by Memphis with the second pick, before Arizona State shooting guard James Harden was grabbed by Oklahoma City.

Sacramento took Memphis shooting guard Tyreke Evans at number four and then Minnesota selected Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio with one of its four picks in the opening round.

The Clippers have made the playoffs just once in the last 12 years and see Blake as the cornerstone of their rebuilding effort.

"When nobody expects you to do something, you have time to work and you have time to build," Griffin told reporters.

"Hopefully that's what we'll do, and hopefully over the next year or two years, whatever it is, make playoff pushes and become a team that is regularly in the postseason."

At 6ft-10in (2.08 meter), 250 pounds (113 kg), Griffin dominated the paint at both ends of the floor for the University of Oklahoma over the last two years.

A 20-year-old Oklahoma City native, Griffin averaged 22.7 points and 14.4 rebounds last season for the Sooners and was the consensus collegiate Player of the Year.


"It's definitely going to take time and it's not all about me," Griffin added. "I feel like they have a great group of players that can do it, and I'm happy to be a part of that."

Minnesota traded up with the Washington Wizards to get the fifth pick and their selection of the 18-year-old Rubio drew cheers from the crowd at Madison Square Garden's WaMu Theater.

Whether Rubio remains with the Timberwolves remains to be seen since his Spanish club, DKV Joventut, wants a US$6.6 million buyout to allow the teen to jump to the NBA.

Often compared to Hall of Famer Pete Maravich for his floppy hair and flashy court sense, the shooting ability of the 6ft-4in (1.93m), 180-pound (81.6 kg) Rubio has been a nagging question mark.

Rubio was on the Spanish team that won the silver medal in the Beijing Olympics, losing to the NBA-stocked United States 118-107 in the championship game.

"It helped me a lot because I played against the best players in the NBA, so that means that I can play here," said Rubio, who has been playing professionally since the age of 14.

Rubio was one of three point guards taken by Minnesota in the opening round, the Timberwolves also snapping up Jonny Flynn of Syracuse at number six and North Carolina's Ty Lawson with the 18th pick.

The rights to Lawson, however, were later traded to Denver for a future first-round pick.

Davidson guard Stephen Curry, the son of former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry, went to Golden State with the seventh pick, while 2008 collegiate Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina was picked by Indiana at number 13.

Twenty-one-year-old forward Omri Casspi was taken by Sacramento with the 23rd pick, becoming the first Israeli ever drafted in the first round.


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