The Los Angeles Clippers have taken a lot of heat for not protecting their superstar, Blake Griffin. I have disagreed with the criticism. This isn’t the ’90s anymore where you can just go up and clock a guy because he hit your teammate and get away with just a slap on the wrist. There are much bigger fines now and suspensions that can cost your team in the long run.
Retaliation is not worth it. But the Clippers do need to send a message somehow that you can’t get away with hammering Griffin.
When the Phoenix Suns center Robin Lopez clobbered Griffin last week, the Clippers did not have much time to retaliate. Lopez was quickly ejected and it was the fourth quarter of a close game that the Clippers wanted to win. If it happened earlier in the game, Lopez may have taken a few extra shots. At least, that is what Clippers center DeAndre Jordan plans to do from now on.
“If Blake gets fouled, I can’t go punch someone in the nose,” Jordan said. “We can’t do that but throughout the course of a game, other fouls happen to other players on the opposite team and if they happen to be hard fouls, they happen to be hard fouls. We’re going to protect our teammates; it doesn’t matter who it is.”
We have not really seen this plan in action yet. For the most part, the Clippers have let people foul Griffin and then keep on playing. But with the playoffs coming up, teams will see each other for a week or so at a time, and you can bet that anyone who chooses to hit Blake Griffin will have to watch their back for the rest of the series.
Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro thinks protecting Griffin falls on the shoulders of the NBA, not his teammates.
“Of course, we’re going to do whatever we can to protect Blake and to protect any player but there’s also a time and place to do it,” said Del Negro. “You can only get so many technical fouls and you can only do so many things. It’s up to the league to step in to put enough suspensions and fines on people when it happens as best they can.”
It’s a tough situation to be in. Obviously, you want to do everything you can to make sure your teammates don’t get hurt, but you also don’t want to sacrifice wins, especially in the playoffs, to get your message across. The Clippers don’t want a Robert Horry/Steve Nash/Amar’e Stoudemire situation where a reaction to a tough hit can cost them a series.
Blake Griffin is a flashy, high-flying dunker. Points don’t come easy in the playoffs though, and the Clippers’ opponent(s) are going to want to do whatever they can to stop him, which may mean some hard fouls. We’ll see how the Clippers decide to handle it. If they do it wrong, it could mean an early exit from the postseason.