The Clippers completely mailed in their game with the Suns on Friday, falling behind by as many as 25 points in the fourth quarter before closing it up a bit and losing by a final of only 111-98. Despite the fact that L.A.’s junior NBA squad seems to be giving up on competing as scheduled, and just as they’ve done most years, it’s still not a great example for the franchise to set for its red-shirt rookie sensation, Blake Griffin.
Griffin has infused a level of excitement into this beaten-down franchise that it hasn’t seen in quite some time. Yet if the team (and its leadership) doesn’t show any fight, then one day he’ll be gone, just like everyone else who’s ever had any talent that has worn a Clippers uniform.
There’s plenty of time for the team to deal with this issue, though, considering that this is Griffin’s first full season on the court as the Clippers’ face of the franchise. And it seems he’s capable of picking things up rather quickly.
Case in point: Griffin’s tolerance for the way that he’s butchered under the basket on a nightly basis.
There have been times this season where Griffin has become frustrated with the lack of calls going in his favor, and in fact, the last time he faced the Suns — when he fouled out in spectacular fashion while picking up three fouls in just 29 seconds of game time — was an example of how he’s poorly handled the situation. But during Friday’s blowout loss in Phoenix, Griffin seemed to have come to the conclusion that he needs to just play through the contact, no matter the situation.
“It’s happened over and over, so it’s not really something I’m worried about,” Griffin said of the hard, sometimes flagrant fouls he constantly receives. “It happens, you’ve just got to keep playing.”
In this one, Channing Frye was called for a flagrant on Griffin in the first half, after grabbing his shorts from behind to try to prevent an uncontested dunk. Griffin fell awkwardly, but didn’t get up hurriedly or in a menacing manner towards Frye. He simply walked to the free throw line with virtually no reaction.
Griffin, at least on this night, seemed at peace with his NBA fate. One that would have him get hammered again and again by opposing defenders, with little or no sympathy from the officials.
“You’ve just got to keep playing,” Griffin said. “You’re not going to get these calls, especially as a rookie, especially as a non-playoff team right now. You’re not going to get any calls. Hopefully, the farther and farther I go, the refs will see how to call certain situations and maybe it’ll get better. But for now, I’ve got to keep playing.”
It’s great news if in fact it’s taken Griffin less than a complete NBA season to recognize this, and he’s able to simply take the fouls and the more-than-occasional non-calls in stride. What will be even more interesting to see is whether or not his teammates bother to compete at all in these last couple of weeks of the season, as Griffin continues to form his opinion of the franchise while marching through his rookie contract on the way to free agency.