Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers an opponent got into a physical altercation with Blake Griffin.
At this point, Griffin’s ‘enemy’ list is starting to collect names: Zach Randolph, David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Demarcus Cousins, Kent Bazemore, Draymond Green, Serge Ibaka and most recently P.J. Tucker. And in each altercation where Griffin has gotten into it with an opposing player there is one common denominator: when provoked, Griffin doesn’t hit back.
By hit, that’s literally and figuratively. Even Willie Green was a bit shocked at the lack of a physical response that could result in a multi-game suspension or fine from his teammate.
“Blake [Griffin], he’s to be commended. It takes a lot to turn the other cheek.”
One would think Tucker’s punch to the face would be the breaking point for Griffin, but, like always, he kept his cool and walked away from the situation instead of punching back, maintaining his composure.
“You just kind of assess the play as it happens. In the moment I don’t want to put my team in a bad situation. I don‟t want to put myself in a bad situation. So you just have to weigh the pros and cons at that point,” said Blake after Monday’s game. And this attitude has made Griffin a mockery around the league, to fans and to a few high priority names.
Charles Barkley of TNT’s Inside the NBA think’s Griffin should “draw a line in the sand.” Chauncey Billups, Griffin’s teammate of the last two seasons, thinks the young power forward is “too nice”. Fans think Griffin should fight back in order to improve his rep as a “tough guy” around the league the way players used to do it in the 1980s and 90s, constantly referring to how Charles Oakley or someone of that nature would never accept the punishment that Griffin faces.
But Griffin never caves in. He’ll throw a slight shove or elbow to make a quick point, but then it’s back to the bench as referees diagnose the situation.
Oddly enough, Griffin being a target has become weird due to his non-aggressive nature. Is it because of his image, one that doesn’t scream highly intimidating? Is it due to his instant success, becoming a star in the NBA the minute he claimed his first victim at the rim? No one really knows, but Danny Granger, Blake’s newest team who spent the last eight years of his career with the Indiana Pacers gave a little insight on what it’s like to be on the other side of Griffin.
“[Blake Griffin] is one of those players that you can’t stop. He had a jump shot going on tonight, and a lot of times he just bullies people. Push them under the rim and lay the ball up or dunk it. That makes some people mad, when you have a force like him.”
If jealousy is the issue, the league will be handing out fines and suspensions for physical acts committed against Griffin for the next ten seasons because he isn’t slowing down soon. Prior to this season, under the likes of Vinny Del Negro, Blake Griffin was good, but not great. The chance of a nightly highlight had a huge hand in Griffin landing endorsements, commercials, and a nightly mention on Sports Center, but the talent hadn’t quite caught up to the fame. But since 2013 turned into the new year, Griffin has arguably been the best power forward in the NBA, a title fans had undeservedly placed upon him for seasons. He’s currently playing the best basketball of his short career, averaging 24.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game, all while shooting increasing both his usage (usage percentage at a career high of 28.9%) and efficiency (career highs in true-shooting [.590] and effective field-goal percentage [.544]).
Griffin may never appease the fan base that wants him to turn into an aggressor. He’s been in enough altercations to where this method of walking away will be his niche. That won’t stop teams from trying to coerce him into getting suspended or ejected from a game a la the Warriors on Christmas night, but it’ll show opponents that he isn’t easily influenced.
“He puts his arms up because if he reacts the way some people say he should, then he gets thrown, gets suspended and it hurts the team. So I know it‟s very difficult for him. But he’s doing the right thing for the team.”
Those are the words of Griffin’s head coach in Doc Rivers. Rivers played in what’s often dubbed the most physical (and best) era in the NBA. And if he thinks the route that Griffin takes with these circumstances, then the rest of us shouldn’t have a problem with it.