Blake Griffin says teams are allowed to be more physical with him than with others

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Blake Griffin had a tough outing against the Suns on Friday, and had to earn every single one of his 17 points and seven rebounds. Those numbers had little impact on the game, however, and his 4-of-14 shooting through three quarters were a true indication of just how much of a struggle it was for him on this night offensively.

Griffin’s issues can be attributed (at least in part) to the defensive game plan the Suns put together, along with the effort of Channing Frye, who made sure to stay between Griffin and the rim all night long while bothering him with his 6’11” frame.

Defensive ability aside, Frye’s physicality might have bothered Griffin even more — not because Griffin can’t handle it, of course. But mainly, because at many times, what Frye was doing appeared to be excessive, and deserving of a whistle from the officials.

From the first possession on, the physicality was noticeable. Put simply, Frye was allowed to push, grab, and hold Griffin more than what is normally considered to be acceptable. Now, the officiating crew was largely lax with the whistles on both sides all game long, but the fact remains that the Suns slowed Griffin by basically checking him when he got close to the rim, pushing him out when he tried to gain low block position, and making sure that contact was made whenever a shot was attempted.

Frye played over 35 minutes, and picked up just four personal fouls; Griffin shot just five free throws, and one of those came just before the final buzzer sounded. On one occasion, Frye literally grabbed Griffin around the neck from behind to stop him from shooting after he had established deep inside position.

No flagrant foul was called; apparently, it was just a run-of-the-mill foul. Two free throws were given, but no apologies.

This is one way to slow Blake Griffin and the Clippers, but it requires the complicity of the referees — which Friday night’s crew seemed more than happy to provide. It seems, though, as if this is becoming the norm around the league. Griffin is such a physical presence that referees are having trouble officiating him properly — or, at the very least, they are letting defenders regularly get away with murder to try to even Griffin’s genetic advantage.

And Griffin has noticed.

“Yeah, for sure,” was Griffin’s nodding response, when I asked him if teams were being allowed to play a little extra-physical against him defensively. “For sure. Guys are allowed to really bang against me, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

It obviously worked Friday in Phoenix. Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro didn’t seem to think it was an issue at all, and intimated that Blake (and the rest of the Clippers’ front line) preferred the physical way.

“Nah, Blake likes that,” he said. “They’re going to take the punishment more than Blake. He likes the physical contact, and with Kenyon, Reggie, and DJ up front that’s fine for us.”

Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans, and DeAndre Jordan are all fine, physical, front-line players. But none are relied upon offensively as much as Griffin is, so the physicality badge that Del Negro seems to want his team to wear with honor really only affects Griffin on that end of the floor.

Besides, Griffin said, Del Negro is only partially correct. Blake only likes the physical play up to a certain point.

“Yeah, I mean, I like physical play, but sometimes it’s a little more than others,” he said. “And sometimes it goes from being physical to really kind of doing more damage than just bumping and stuff like that. But that’s on me, I’ve still got to play through that — everybody gets bumped, everybody gets fouled. I’ve got to do a better job of finishing plays and making shots.”

Griffin isn’t making any excuses, so we won’t either. But it’s clear that he feels he’s treated differently than others when it comes to the way teams are allowed to defend him physically. He may just have a point.

Jerry West on NBA Draft: “I don’t know how you could pass Zion Williamson”

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A rumor started buzzing around NBA Twitter last week, a second-hand report that NBA legend and Clippers’ consultant Jerry West was praising Murray State guard Ja Morant, saying he would take him in front of the presumptive No. 1 pick Zion Williamson.

The source of that rumor: comedian Jeff Garlin, saying it on the Dan Patrick Show.

Jerry West himself went on the Dan Patrick show Thursday and shot that down saying “it Would Be Like Passing Jordan in the draft.”

Two players were picked in front Jordan in the 1984 Draft. The Houston Rockets took Hakeem Olajuwon, and while Jordan went on to be Jordan nobody can fault the Rockets for how this picked turned out — two titles and a Hall of Fame big man in your organization is an amazing draft.

The one everyone talks about was Portland at No. 2, when executive Stu Inman and coach Jack Ramsey decided they were set on the wing in Clyde Drexler and needed a big man, so they selected Sam Bowie out of Kentucky. Bowie might have had an excellent NBA career if injuries had not plagued him, but he was no Jordan. It’s the ultimate NBA cautionary tale — draft the best player on the board, not according to need.

Williamson is projected by teams as the best player on the board. By far. Even the Morant fans have him a clear second. Plus, Williamson comes in hugely popular and a brand unto himself — he will sell tickets and sponsorships. Not drafting him would be a stupid business decision, not to mention a basketball one.

Whoever lands second in next month’s draft lottery will do well with Morant. Whoever is third will likely get R.J. Barrett out of Duke and… let’s just say that’s where it gets interesting.

Likely top-10 pick Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech makes it official, declares for NBA Draft

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We all knew this was coming, but on Thursday he made it official:

Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver is declaring for the NBA Draft, where he is expected to be a top-10 pick. He made the announcement at a rally on the Tech campus Thursday, then took his message to social media.

Culver, a 6’6” wing player, passes the eye test for an NBA wing, he can shoot from the outside (he only hit 30.4 percent from three this season, but it was 38 percent the season before and his stroke looks good), he can put the ball on the floor and get inside, and he may have the best feel for the game of any wing prospect in this draft. The only question is athleticism — he’s not a classically explosive, and the NBA is loaded with freak athletes on the wing.

Still, Culvert looks like a rotation wing player with the potential to be more, and that should land him comfortably in the top 10 in this draft (likely 5-8).

Nuggets take 13-game losing streak in San Antonio into Game 3

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In 2009, Carlos Boozer had 18 points and 11 rebounds in the Jazz’s win over the Spurs. Paul Millsap backed him up.

A couple months later, Boozer had 31-13 in another Jazz win over the Spurs. Again, Millsap backed him up.

Late in the 2012-13 season, rookie Damian Lillard led the Trail Blazers to a blowout of the Spurs. Will Barton played three minutes in garbage time.

Those are the only three times current Nuggets starters have won in San Antonio.

After splitting the first two games of their first-round series in Denver, the Nuggets must win at least once in San Antonio to advance. The first opportunity comes in Game 3 tonight.

Denver has lost 13 straight road games against the Spurs – a drought longer than the careers of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. The Nuggets’ other starters didn’t fare much better before joining Denver. Barton went 1-5 in San Antonio with Portland. Millsap went 2-20 in San Antonio with Utah and Atlanta.

Even several notches below their dynasty status, the Spurs remain especially tough at home.

The Spurs went 32-9 at home and 16-25 on the road this season. Maybe that’s an aberration in a limited sample. But they also went 33-8 at home and 14-27 on the road last season.

That’s a 79% win percentage at home and 37% on the road. The last time a team had such a large disparity over a two-year span was the 2008-2009 Jazz.

This might just be San Antonio’s post-Kawhi Leonard identity.

Here are the largest home-road win percentage differences in the last decade:

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There’s another possibility: It’s not that the Spurs are that good at home. It’s that they’re that bad on the road.

But San Antonio trailed only the Nuggets, Bucks and Raptors in home record this season.

The Spurs also won Game 1 in Denver, where the altitude has historically given the Nuggets a strong homecourt advantage. If Denver dropped that game to a lousy road team, that’d be its own problem.

Either way, the Nuggets have a real challenge on their hands.

Kevin Porter Jr. a possible lottery pick heading into 2019 NBA draft

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Kevin Porter Jr. missed more than a quarter of his freshman season at USC due to injury. He missed another couple games due to suspension. When he played, he usually came off the bench. He’s only 18.

But Porter has already shown enough to impress NBA teams.

Porter, via Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

“I will be declaring for the 2019 NBA draft and I will be signing with Roc Nation Sports,” Porter told ESPN.

Porter has a wide possible range in the first round, because there’s a massive gap between his ceiling and floor. But it shouldn’t take too long for a team to bet on his upside.

A 6-foot-6 shooting guard with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, Porter has a special combination of shiftiness and power with the ball in his hands. He can attack the rim and finish above it. He can also pull up for jumpers.

I don’t trust his 41% 3-point shooting at USC. That came on only 68 attempts, and he made just 52% of his free throws (though that was also on an unreliably small sample, just 46 attempts). But his stroke looks compact and smooth.

Porter can be an impressive passer. Right now, that’s more so making quick and correct standstill reads than distributing while driving.

If he improves his handle, that could really tie together all his skills.

Porter forces too many bad shots. He’s not attentive enough defensively. There are questions about his maturity.

But if he pans out at the next level, he could be awesome.