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The “Violence Against Blake Griffin” situation

Mar 23, 2012, 12:00 PM EST

Blake Griffin AP

He’s asking for it.

OK, stop, that right there. That’s me trying to snag your attention with some sort of bombastic statement. I can assure you my position is more nuanced than this phrase, which by the way, in the context of violence of any sort — on-court, off-court, sexual, non-sexual — should never, ever be used, and that my use of it is only as a way to let you know this is actually a thing that’s going on and not just “oh, Jason Smith gave Blake Griffin a hard foul.”

The NBA is developing a problem for itself, and how it handles it will be a very delicate matter. Because Blake Griffin is asking for it, and that’s what the league wants.

Remember those halcyon days last year when Griffin was just creating highlights, detonating at 10,000 feet like the NBA version of a warhead, and everyone just thought it was awesome? Yeah, hi, welcome to 2012, where due to exposure, the life expectancy of your ubiquitous mass appeal is about 45 seconds. Griffin hasn’t been the same monster this year that he was last year. He’s still got a handful of absolutely absurd throwdowns, but his points, rebounds, and assists are all down per 36 minutes from last year. His efficiency is slightly up, both in field goal percentage and PER, but his free throw shooting is down. And while his free throw rate is down from his rookie year, you can tell that part of the drop in his productivity has to do with the fouls he’s taking.

Last year, it was cute. There were some who gave the hard foul, it got to be more of an issue, the Clippers certainly complained about it, but in reality, it was mostly just adorable that he tried so hard on every play. But this year, the cuteness has worn off. The book is out on Griffin. Hammer him, punish him, make it clear you will not stand for him putting you on NBC SportsTalk as a highlight. And since Griffin is so physical, so athletic, so aggressive, you have to do it fast. So you have fast, plus violence. Or, in the absence of fast, you can have reckless. Observe.

Now, Smith has already apologized for the hit, and knows it was reckless. In reality, this play isn’t indicative of what Griffin is facing on a night-to-night basis. This is an outlier, a sloppy combination of a player giving up on trying to make the play while not giving up on giving contact. This isn’t the type of player Jason Smith is, it was just a bad foul. But this, again, is the book on Blake Griffin. This is how you stop him. And he knows that, which is why he’s also driving fans nuts (and making them want those hard fouls given) by freaking out over every call.

This isn’t anything new for Griffin. He’s typically always had the same attitude. And if it seems familiar, here’s why, and I want to be clear on this so we’re going all bold: Every great player in the history of the NBA has freaked out over getting calls because it gives them an edge. Yes, Jordan. Yes, Kobe. Yes, Duncan. Yes, Malone. Yes, Steve Nash, Derrick Rose, LeBron James and Travis Diener. (OK, Travis didn’t do that, nor was he great.)

It’s part of it. It’s how you react. And it’s a two way street. Those players I mentioned above, the Trav not withstanding, they all take an excessive amount of punishment which the league cannot completely corral. Kobe Bryant gets a ridiculously high number of foul calls in his favor. He also has a ridiculous number of fouls calls missed. If you go through and watch a ton of highlights, you’re going to see guys being more hands-on with Kobe than they were with their dad’s stash of adult magazines when they were 13. And by they I mean you. Bryant takes bumps, scrapes, hits, whacks, thumps, shoves, elbows, and I think one time bites because he has the ball a ton, scores the ball a ton, and his defenders will do anything to stop him.

So Griffin’s reaction is annoying and overdramatic, but it’s not only trying to win to get that advantage, it’s self-preservation. The Clippers and Griffin honestly feel that he’s targeted, and that the abuse he takes is greater than that of the average player. And he’s probably right. And the reason for why that is what gives the league such a headache.

The NBA wants those highlights. It wants Griffin putting a ridiculous poster down on some huge defender to steal the spotlight from baseball on highlight shows across the country on the third night of baseball season. It wants to showcase this dynamic, explosive young powerhouse whose play seems like Thor himself raining thunder down on his enemies. But they do have, despite public sentiment to the opposite, a practice of letting the players police themselves. You’re allowed to target a guy as long as you do it within the bounds of play and you do not violate any of the specific rules set forth. You’ll be punished for such plays, whether it’s a personal, flagrant, or flagrant II foul. But they don’t specifically act to control such measures, because they can’t treat any one player as special. Just because Blake Griffin tries really hard doesn’t mean that they can involve themselves in protecting him from harm any more so than for Chris Paul or Dwight Howard or Sam Young or Drew Gooden. They can only respond to excessive incidents.

The nature of the game means they can only be reactive.

And that’s a trick for them. It’s why you see so many superstar young guys fade into less contact. Dwyane Wade was a contact-loving machine his first three seasons. A barrel full of injuries later and his game is much more predicated on slipping contact than creating it. Griffin’s already trying to diversify his game to be more deadly from range (and failing miserably). We want to see him drive instead of take that mid-range jumper, but the only way he can draw defenders out to create space and therefore not get beaten to a pulp when he drives is to knock down that shot.

Meanwhile the league is going to face this as a continuing issue. Because Griffin’s adjusting, but he’s not relenting. For all the complaints and the way defenses have adjusted to him, you have to give him that. He’s still waiting like a cobra to strike every time down the floor. But eventually the NBA may be put into a position where they have to intercede on the players’ own policing. And that’s going to get bad very quickly.

Addendum: You’re going to hear the phrase “back in the day” or “in the 80’s” a lot in relation to this issue. Please bear in mind two things. One, there’s a reason the game has evolved away from that and it has less to do with cultural values or an NBA image problem and more to do with the players not wanting to operate in an environment where their career can be threatened or their lives can be put in danger. It may make you feel like a man to talk about how tough things you used to not do were, but the reality has changed.

Two, the speed and violence capable at this level greatly exceeds what we knew in the 80’s due to strength and conditioning regimens and that means the dangers are that much higher. No one’s advocating getting rid of the hard foul here, or getting rid of the hard foul on Griffin. The point is simply that Griffin’s particular style means that the odds of injury continue to increase and that means the odds of a fight increase, and that violence at a high velocity, particularly in mid-air (which is why the Smith foul isn’t nearly as bad as others we’ve seen) is going to be problematic without intervention eventually.

  1. acdc363 - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    So Smith has “already apologized for the hit, and knows it was reckless” yet on his way out of the arena he is getting the crowd excited and high giving fans. Blake Griffin was not asking for this. Fans like that, players like that and writers like you have no place in sports.

  2. leearmon - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    Can we please stop acting like this was the crime of the century? Was it a blatant foul? Yes. Did Smith make a play on the ball? No. But this outcry of concern for Blake is a joke. Especially when considering the number of hard fouls that have been much worse in recent history…

    Those 3 took me like 25 seconds to find, and believe me there is a lot more where they came from. All of which were MUCH worse than what happened to Blake Griffin. So if we are going to make a big deal about this incident, lets be consistent and actually make a fuss about the hard fouls that are much more dangerous.

  3. Chip Caray's Eyebrows - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    tl;dr

  4. eepyaj - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:46 PM

    I don’t know why this writer belongs to a SPORTS section.

  5. nightrain42 - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    He brought this on himself with all the lob city crap and his and his teams bravado after every dunk. It’s called playing fool. Shut up and deal with it.

    • loyalpanthersfan - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:32 PM

      So because blake dunks (part of the game) in which afterwards he doesn’t rub it in he walks away, he deserves to be tackled, shoved (not part of the game) its the media who ran with lob city, these players who foul are angry n jealous of blake’s athletic ability, if they had the same ability they would dunk as much as he or his team does. Man, get outta here…

      • rooney24 - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:38 PM

        Don’t pretend that Blake doesn’t hang on the rim and pose a little after his dunks. He is no saint.

      • eureca323 - Mar 23, 2012 at 5:03 PM

        Doesn’t rub it in? He will stare right at you and laugh after a dunk. After one of his teammates dunked on Smith last night you can see Blake talking smack right to Smith. Which probably played a part in the foul Smith put on him. Im not saying he deserves a foul like that, but he definitely rubs it in and expect hard fouls in general when you try to get under peoples skin like Blake does. Blake also gets under peoples skin by pushing, elbowing and bumping people all game he definitely gets away with his fair share of fouls on his end.

        Also in general expect hard fouls when you go to the rim so aggressively and are such a horrible free throw shooter. People are gonna want to put you on the line and when you are going 100 miles per hour its not always gonna be pleasant.

        The Smith foul though was out of line it wasn’t to prevent a bucket or put Blake on the line it was to hurt Blake. If Smith wanted to put him on the line wrap him up don’t tackle someone on the basketball court.

    • loyalpanthersfan - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:47 PM

      I’m not saying hes a saint but does any bball player deserve to get fouled like that?

    • gcbball3 - Mar 23, 2012 at 5:17 PM

      that is not basketball fool, this isnt the street or better yet prison ball, as a former college basketball player, just getting caught with an unexpected hard screen the wrong way can do serious damage. night train do everyone a favor and sthu you loser. go watch some football if u wanna see that crap

  6. tubal22 - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    Blake and CP3 have turned the Clippers into the All Flop team. It’s embarrassing watching them play, and it goes against the integrity of the game. Does it help their team win? Yeah. But it has nothing to do with basketball. It’s embarrassing to the league.

    They need to start fining or calling technical fouls against players who blatantly flop.

    I applaud what Smith did. Hard fouls need to be part of the game as a way for players to police themselves. It’s been like that since the NBA started. Intentionally hurting someone has no place, but putting a prima donna flopper in his place needs to happen every single game.

  7. rooney24 - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    Interesting. When the T-Wolves complained to the league that teams were being extra physical against Rubio, everyone was calling the T-Wolves and Rubio a bunch of whiners that should give it up, because that is just how the game is played. Now, you have a physically larger, stronger player and when his team complains about other teams playing him physical, it now is a big deal and the player needs to be protected. Sounds like a double standard. Is that because Rubio is a rookie, because he is foreign, or because he plays in Minnesota instead of an LA/NY/Chicago team?

    • Justin - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:22 PM

      None of the above. It is because 50% of this site’s content is videos of Blake Griffin dunking. They feel the need to protect the goose that is laying them the golden eggs.

    • loyalpanthersfan - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:24 PM

      Much bigger difference, was rubio being dang near speared everytime he got in the paint?! So yea these fouls against blake are not part of the game.

      • rooney24 - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:40 PM

        Who said Blake was being speared every time he got in the paint? Overexaggerate much? He took one hard foul, which was no more than running into him, no hacking the arms or head, and his apologists/fans are acting like he got stuck in a knife fight.

    • loyalpanthersfan - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:44 PM

      I said dang near which means it doesn’t happen all the time, answer me this, do u ever see anyone get fouled as much/hard/often as blake griffin does?

      • Justin - Mar 23, 2012 at 2:13 PM

        Dwight Howard

    • loyalpanthersfan - Mar 23, 2012 at 2:45 PM

      So u see dwight howard get fouled as hard as blake, maybe as often because he can’t hit free throws N I believe I’ve seen dwight crying a few times getting T’d up

      • Justin - Mar 23, 2012 at 4:47 PM

        and yet no websites come to him public defense about how it needs to be changed.

    • shutupyoufuckingidiots - Mar 23, 2012 at 2:47 PM

      Rubio is a smaller player that other players want to dominate, that’s Rubio being weaksauce. The reason they’re complaining for Blake is because of fouls like the one you saw, not making a play on the ball, a foul out of sheer frustration. That’s not sportsmanlike, that’s cowardice and being a little fucking brat.

  8. sscampton - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    Just a thought…

    LAC could have had Dwight Howard to pair with CP3 if they would have just given up Blake, some cap filler and a pick. This could have happened, but LA said “No way, this is BLAKE GRIFFIN!”

    Just saying…

    • shutupyoufuckingidiots - Mar 23, 2012 at 2:43 PM

      What’s your point? they should have traded for dwight because griffin is getting fouled hard all the time? Even if they needed dwight howard your argument for why would be the stupidest fucking argument i’ve ever seen.

  9. mistercharitystripe34 - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:15 PM

    I’m more interested in how Blake will start reacting to all this or if he’ll use this to fuel himself to better play.

  10. d57fan - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    I am a Griffin fan but he IS getting annoying with the constant whining and the stare downs when he dunks on people….

  11. andyreidisfat - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:28 PM

    First, nobody watches nbc’s sports station .

    Second, that’s basketball today. The nba wanted this, now deal

    • dmcannon99 - Mar 23, 2012 at 5:36 PM

      Good luck during the Olympics, pal.

      And no, that is NOT basketball today. As soon as some punk pulls a blindside on your favorite player and puts him in a wheelchair for life, then we’ll see how happy you are with players pulling this garbage.

      Two days for this clown were not enough. Especially with his actions AFTER the punk foul. His apology was garbage as well. If he HAD been sorry, he would not have tried to incite the crowd afterwords. Nice cheering by the fans in NO, by the way. Would they have given a standing O if Griffin had been taken out on a stretcher? Guess we have a better understanding of why the Saints did what they did…

  12. perryplayer1 - Mar 23, 2012 at 2:09 PM

    hahahah still love that video!!!

  13. aventador12 - Mar 23, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    No basketball player needs to be treated and fouled like that. That was clearly intentional by that player and it can mean only of either two things. One, he knew that sooner or later, he’s probably gonna be dunked-on and be an embarrassing highlight that will be forever remembered so he figured to just do that idiotic move on Griffin so at least he can take solace on that and not be the bed-end receiver. Or Two, he just envies what Griffin as a whole was and knows that he’s not even close to his stardom. Plain and simple. That was reckless, immature, and simply unprofessional.

  14. lakerade - Mar 23, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    Or shaq, he used to get abused as well in that defenders committed fouls on him that made no attempt to play the ball, they just hacked at his arms or shoved him. The difference? Shaq knew his was a power game and was giving as good as he was getting, so he played through it, not to mention diversified his game so it was just bullrushing for dunks. If it’s too much, Blake, don’t barrel into guys or blow guys up when you’re boxing out, use your physique more judiciously like lebron, who will dip the shoulder to get a step on his drives, but wont just hammer someone simply to exert his strength. In other words, develop your game more.

  15. cowboysnlakers - Mar 23, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    If I played against him, his faking would annoy the crap out of me more than the posterizing. No one like a whiny cry baby and that’s exactly what he is.

  16. charlutes - Mar 23, 2012 at 4:18 PM

    Matt Moore writes essays, not blogs. I now just read the first few paragraphs and assume he will ramble on incoherently from there. Someone reel this guy in.

  17. cakemixa - Mar 23, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    Blake is the most one-dimensional “star” I’ve ever seen.

    • gcbball3 - Mar 23, 2012 at 5:20 PM

      just wait, blakes is improving game in and game out. as soon as his jumper gets a little better he will be unguardable. just because it looks like a player is whining it doesnt mean they always are, yea if u get fouled u want the refs to know about it. but most guys ask the refs to watch for this or that next play. some of you haters need to stop posting till u better understnd the game of basketball mentally and physically. and for all of you who have nothing better to do then dog on the writers. get a life come on

  18. dmcannon99 - Mar 23, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    Lots of Griffin haters on here…

    How many of you would have been able to get back up and finish out the game after being blindsided by the now-suspended Smith? And you might want to take another look at the foul if you think he was only “run into” as one poster stated earlier. The hit is here for all to see and making statements like that makes you look more than a little prejudiced against Griffin.

    Does Howard get fouled hard? Yep. Did Shaq get beat up? Yep. Does that make an out-and-out tackle on Griffin OK? Who are you kidding.

    You wanna see this crap, there are any number of other sports available for you. It does not belong in BB, no matter who the target is.

  19. sweetnlow44 - Mar 23, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    The NBA is a joke and needs to quit protecting egomaniacs like Griffin. They made a joke of the dunk contest last year because they rigged it for him to win. Pathetic.

  20. p1nch3dloaf - Mar 23, 2012 at 7:05 PM

    Blake should do commercials for bumper cars.

  21. cheers4ablumpkin - Mar 23, 2012 at 7:40 PM

    He’s got a bounty in him.

  22. atom665 - Mar 23, 2012 at 8:35 PM

    BG is a one trick pony. A mediocre player who can jump. Doesn’t help that he couldn’t throw an elementary school off a building and not hit the ground. Harold Miner 2.0.

  23. kingufr - Mar 23, 2012 at 10:27 PM

    If the league does not get serious about this, they may soon become the NHL…or the late 80’s early 90’s NBA…2 enforcers minimum on every team, “streetball” justice(you hit one of mine, I send one of yours to IR), and scores in the 70’s every night…remember how much fun those Knicks-Pistons games were to watch?

  24. cheers4ablumpkin - Mar 24, 2012 at 12:20 AM

    On*.

  25. losangelasbasketball - Mar 24, 2012 at 1:52 AM

    “eff it…i’m just gonna dunk it and see what happens”
    If anybody here had blake’s athleticism and was drafted by a historically irrelevant franchise like the clippers… “eff it…i’m just gonna dunk” is what you probably would be saying too…

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