Throwing down wouldn’t be manning up despite pounding on Clippers’ Griffin

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com


VIDEO: The Starters talk about the physical play on and from Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin doesn’t need my advice. Fact is, the way he has played this season for the Clippers, both with and without Chris Paul, he doesn’t need much more than the essential advice his new coach, Doc Rivers, gave him when he encouraged Griffin to rotate 180 degrees and face the basket, rather than backing down into the low post. That transformation has been responsible for the Clippers’ rise as a contender and vaulted Griffin into MVP discussions (for the Nos. 3-5 ballot slots, anyway).

But there has been an incessant chorus over the past two months – and this is my nomination for the NBA’s 2013-14 Damn Foolishness Award – that Griffin needs to go medieval on some of his opponents’ rear ends.

Pray that it does not happen.

Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and ESPN columnist Michael Wilbon all have encouraged Griffin to varying degrees to man up, square off and throw down the next time he gets a cheap-shot or abused physically in a game. That’s right, they’re advocating fisticuffs. Going hockey goon on his own behalf allegedly is the only way Griffin can put a stop to the occasional takedowns and extracurricular skirmishes that somehow, despite his monster season, are said to be retarding his growth.

Malone, who cut a chiseled figure not unlike Griffin during his 19-year Hall of Fame career primarily for the Utah Jazz, shifted that conversation into high gear last month while sitting in on an ESPN game broadcast. Said Malone: “First thing I’d do [is say], ‘Blake, the next time one guy cheap shots you, just lose your mind. I would pay your fine. Lose your mind, run roughshod.”

Sounds like a new-millennium version of Sheriff Andy Taylor giving Opie the bully talk, right? Don’t let him take your milk money, son, give him the ol’ knuckle sandwich. Except that those knuckles hang bare at the ends of long, rippling arms, on a guy who stands 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds.

Black eyes are one thing. Major reconstructive surgery and maybe even manslaughter are quite different.

There’s a romanticizing that goes on when former NBA players look back on their days in the trenches, on the abuse they dealt and endured and on the reputations some of them crafted as enforcers. Maurice Lucas often gets regarded as the league’s unofficial undisputed champion of mean, owing both to some legit skirmishes (Artis Gilmore, Darryl Dawkins) and Luke’s withering glare.

But anyone who remembers or has seen the footage of Kermit Washington‘s fist driving violently into Rudy Tomjanovich’s face in December 1977 still can feel in his or her gut the sickening aftershocks of The Punch. The Malice at The Palace melee in November 2004 between the Pacers and the Pistons remains a sore point and image problem for the league, a decade later.

And that wacky videotape of Barkley and O’Neal going WWE on each other under the basket – a staple of the “Inside the NBA” studio banter – would be rated NC-17 and aired far less often if Shaq’s big ol’ paw actually had smashed flush into the Chuckster’s mug.

Chuck might look a little more like Cher right now, too.

No ring, no gloves? No skates, no helmets? Then no way. Goading Griffin into mayhem – Wilbon likened it on his “PTI” show to a pitcher whizzing a fastball high and tight near someone’s ear hole – is reckless because the romanticism of how those moments have gone for some old-schoolers neglects the physics of how badly the next bout might actually go.

Griffin – who addressed his wise reluctance to muscle up on those who initiate the cheap stuff, in a post by our Jeff Caplan coming out of All-Star weekend – could wind up seriously hurting someone or getting hurt himself. Malone says he’ll pay his fine, but would The Mailman be willing to serve Griffin’s time (and pay his salary) if he got hit with a 5- or 10-game suspension? How ’bout if things got really ugly and the Clippers star wound up in jail?

Or worse still (gulp) ended an opponent’s career? Flailing some elbows or sneaking in rabbit punches (a Malone favorite) aren’t likely to achieve the desired effect of sending a league-wide message to “Back the bleep off Blake!” Yet balling up and throwing fists the size of canned hams could escalate it into something ugly and irreversible. No, Griffin’s best tactic is the one he’s been deploying: Bang away within the rules, bristle at any undue rough treatment so the referees are on notice, then laugh all the way to the free-throw line.

Griffin is not soft. He has nothing to prove in that area. And he, the Clippers and the NBA have plenty to lose if he heeds irresponsible advice.

Damn Foolishness, I tell ya. You got a nominee for this NBA season? Have at it in the comments below.

18 Comments

  1. Flexy says:

    I commend Blake for not giving into the hype, have people forgotten about the different types of players. Blake is a finesse forward – these days that means he gots swag on da court people. He don’t need to make a statement when he is a statement, now if his teammates feel like their star bigman is being mistreated then they need to acquire a fall guy player like Metta World Piece to come out and take the guy out in Blake’s place…Thats how you get it done. Can’t afford to lose the star player…C’mon people

  2. Ada says:

    Finally someone that is making sense!!! Seriously Barkley, wilbon etc are saying griffin should hit back??!!! What if he decides to hit back and seriously hurts someone?? Blake griffin is doing the right thing now and I believe it works in favor of him anyway

  3. okc2014 says:

    I’m so sick of watching jealous players try to stop Blake Griffin. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. LOL.

  4. c man says:

    did anyone watch the Denver game …. that so called player from Denver did everything he could to rough up griffin—– that is his only chance against griffen === if you don’t have the talent to play then you must resort to goon tactics==
    its just to bad the league allows such play–someday someone is going to get hurt badly and the league will punish someone when its the refs and league that carry the blame. playing hard is one thing =playing with the intention to take a player out or do harm is wrong

  5. Stu says:

    Thank you for putting some real world common sense to this narrative that keeps coming up. These guys are role models and there’s enough unprovoked violence going on in the world. We don’t need to see players throwing down over a foul on the basketball court

  6. Hunter says:

    Good Article, Im glad someone is speaking out on the double standard fight mentality the NBA has.

  7. justsayin says:

    I’d certainly hate to see him break his hand now that he’s found his shot. Not like the Clips can afford any more injuries, either.

  8. codyfunk764 says:

    griffin is being presented now as some kind of victim, which is ridiculous – i GUARANTEE players would stop zeroing in on him if HE stopped with the cheap stuff. he does so many things during games that all other players get called for, but they’re slimy, sneaky, things, so players get pissed that he’s getting the kobe treatment.

    yes, it’s not all one-sided, and occasionally he has a target on his back, but quite often it’s in retaliation for something he did. griffin’s not a victim, people.

  9. Danny says:

    Carlos must be a lakers fan.. lol

  10. Bill says:

    Anyone who has actually played basketball knows that you have to draw the line at some point when your opponents keep pounding on you if you want it to stop. That doesn’t mean go Kermit Washington on someone. but throwing a a bow or two to the chest the chest can make a big difference. Similarly you can make what you used to be a hard foul but is now a flagrant when said opponent goes up for a shot. Not by hitting them in he head but by crashing your body into theirs and sending them sprawling. Barreling through a screen and putting a guy on his butt can get the job done too. Bottom line, you can send the message without truly hurting someone or getting suspended.

    As for Blake Griffin, if he doesn’t mind the abuse, no one else should care what he does or doesn’t do. But for me, it torqued me off and I did what I had to within reason to make it stop.

    • 90percentftm says:

      So after getting fouled hard, the opponent is just gonna stop pestering griffin? What makes you think a ‘bow to the face or a shove to a mid-flight shooter isn’t next? Or even a fistfight?

  11. Oakley34BLAM says:

    Nice seeing an old school guy like Aschburner advocate for non-violence on the court. Deservedly or not it’s my impression too many old ball-heads romanticize the violence in the game’s history. Look, my favorite player of all time is Charles Oakley, and I long for the days of physical play, but there is a far cry from that and violence.

  12. Bball fan says:

    Well said, sir. Great article! What is often overlooked in this Blake Griffin argument is his IQ. It takes a lot of smarts to continue on the way he has been, especially with the constant murmurs of his downy soft character. I find it laughable that people continually call him soft for not reacting foolishly to unprovoked/provoked shots. He is mentally owning his opponents by refusing to get involved in nonsensical fights. Blake Griffin…keep doing what you are doing…haters will always hate.

  13. carlos says:

    start making your free throws and they will stop with the cheap fouls, also, having a decent mid range jump shot would help

    • juan says:

      wow…have you been asleep all year. Go look at some stats you goon and then make an educated comment. Dude has already bumped his FT % to over 70%…idiot

    • BlakeG says:

      Have you even watched Blake this season? He is shooting 70% from the free throw line, and has improved 10-16 ft jumpers to 40 %. Thats only 1.6% behind Aldridge whi is considered a great mid range shooter. His shooting has nothing to do with the cheap fouls, it has everything to do with players feeling thats there only chance to slow him down.

    • Josh says:

      Carlos, clearly you don’t watch the games. He does both those things now. But way to chime in with your arrogant ignorance. Nice look!

    • jOLAN says:

      Hey has improved on both. And that’s a completely irrelevant argument. They are talking about the cheap fouls he is getting.