Opposing teams have been trying to knock Blake Griffin off his game. Literally.
As Griffin has emerged as an NBA star and powerhouse offensive force, other teams have started to combat his physical presence with some physical play of their own. Teams have been trying to push Griffin around. The Clippers noticed and as a team decided they were not going to let that happen, players told Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.
You could see it most clearly in the end-of-game incident with the Lakers last Sunday. Griffin and Lamar Odom got into a little push and pull under the basket, and Baron Davis came rushing in to shove back Odom and protect his guy. Think of it as just one teammate protecting another, but this was planned for.
The team meeting took place on the bus the afternoon of Dec. 16, after the Clippers returned to the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, Mich., from practice at nearby Oakland University. Coaches and staffers exited, players stayed on, decisions were made.
Among others, it was decreed right there, parked near the entrance of the building, that Blake Griffin would be protected…..
“Just as far as having each other’s back, but knowing, hey, it’s a target on him especially and we’ve got to be ready for it,” said veteran Craig Smith, out now with a herniated disc but normally a physical presence as a 265-pound forward.
“And if we have to get in a brawl, there’s a brawl. It’s a grown-man’s league, and sometimes it happens. I don’t like for it to happen like that, but it’s a very emotional game. He might not like how somebody grabs him and might get up fast. It happens. It’s part of the game. I wish it was like hockey, where we could put boards all around, if guys want to go at it. But I think they don’t want to go at it with him like that, one-on-one.
“I think it started in the Portland game, with Andre Miller. I told [Griffin], ‘You’ve got to protect yourself out there, first and foremost. But at the same time, as a group, we have your back.’ They tried to get in his head. I told him, ‘Don’t let it frustrate you. Just take it to another level. Use that anger out there on the floor versus going at them at attacking ’em.’ “
The Clippers are starting to figure things out. They are playing well, 10-4 in the last 14. They are earning respect and with that will come efforts to derail them. The real tests are ahead. February is when the Clippers head out on the road for their extended annual Grammys road trip. There are tough teams ahead no longer looking past Los Angeles.
But at least these Clippers will not back down.