Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin is a terrible free-throw shooter and an unrefined post player. The All-Star is also an explosive scorer and leaper who can throw in a two-handed dunk even with your burliest big man hugging his hips -- on his way to over 20 points per game. The combination of these factors creates a whole hunk of hard fouls, as Griffin flings himself at the rim. And because defenders are told to do everything they can to prevent Blake from earning endless and-one whistles, the man gets hit. Hard. And he's having a hard time dealing with it.
On the heels of Derrick Rose complaining about the same treatment on Monday, Griffin answered a question about the hard licks to the Orange County Register, via SLAM:
"I'm definitely sick of taking hard hits," Griffin said after the Clippers' shootaround Monday. "…There's a point, I can't remember what game it was, in my mind where I thought this is kind of ridiculous. I'm sick of it, but it's going to keep on happening. It's affected me this year a lot, especially with the referees. I'm just getting frustrated and getting myself in trouble with officials."
As the OCR's Dan Woike points out, Griffin has been called for 11 technical fouls this season (one was later rescinded), and he's in danger of being suspended for a game if he earns three more. And while we can't imagine what it's like to take the pounding that Griffin does, nearly nightly, you've likely seen him play quite a bit this season on national TV. He's earned those technicals. He's probably earned far more.
This is, unfortunately, a function of Griffin's game at this point. While there have been a few cheap shots here and there (most notably Jason Smith's take down of BG last month), his still-developing (it is developing … right?) post game forces him into the sorts of finishes that lend themselves to hard wrap-ups. It isn't fair to write that Griffin tries to dunk everything, because he still tosses up plenty of jumpers and attempts to work spin moves in the post, but he does dash to the rim a whole lot.
And when you're shooting 52 percent from the free-throw line, and opponents have six fouls apiece to pass around? You're going to get fouled. And when you're beastly strong and score despite typical fouling contact? You're going to get fouled hard.
Mind you, Griffin is just fine for being honest about being "sick" about these fouls. And because of the style of play we detailed above, it is "kind of ridiculous" for Blake to be taking more of these types of hits this season than just about any player -- Dwight Howard, who has sort of taken it easy on both ends in 2011-12, slid down the list this season -- even if he appears to whine about non-calls more than just about any player we've seen this season.
There is a way out of this, you know.
Save for his second season, Shawn Kemp shot a free-throw percentage in the mid-70s for his entire career. And though Kemp gradually developed a nice face-up, 18-foot jumper for the first six or seven years of his career he was primarily a high-flying forward who did most of his damage with dunks or uneasy forays with a still-developing post game. His play near the rim was just as explosive and just as unsteady at times as Griffin's is now, and yet he didn't take near the amount of shots that Griffin did.
Why? He made three out of every four free throws he took. The same goes for Dominique Wilkins, to a lesser extent. We're not telling you that all three were dunk-only artists, and that Kemp and 'Nique weren't slapped with flagrant contact from time to time, but only Griffin is taking the hard shots to this extent. And Blake is the only one of the three who is a liability at the line.
Of course, making only 52 percent of your free throws allows for some karmic retribution. Let's not blame the victim, here.
Let's do remember that flagrant fouls aren't intentional fouls, and that referees need to be more willing to hand out a flagrant foul to defenders that may not have wanted to cross the line into Cheap Lickville, but did anyway. And the idea of tossing out hard foul after hard foul is an antiquated notion that might not always make basketball sense. It's a hard habit to break, like when we see teams fouling on the fast break even if the offensive team gets easy free throws and the ball back as a result. More fouls means more time in the penalty -- all to potentially stop one bucket and the NBA's king of dunks-plus-the-foul.
The Clippers clinched a playoff berth on Monday, and the stat sheet rolls back to zeroes when the playoffs start. Seems as good a time as any for Blake to disabuse defenders of the notion that tells them to hit a little harder than they have to.
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- Blake Griffin
- Los Angeles Clippers