With 4-Game Suspension of Griffin, Clippers Send A Message

We have made it clear that this conduct has no place in the Clippers organization.” (Steve Ballmer, Doc Rivers)

Because perception is reality, the Clippers can’t take two steps forward without taking one step back, When Blake Griffin punched Matias Testi multiple times in Toronto, inside a restaurant and outside, the Clippers reintroduced their narrative as the team that just can’t get it right. Something is always going to go wrong in their imperfect Los Angeles world where they are searching for that elusive first title. To that part of the story, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, trying to rectify the narrative, took a hard line approach with Blake Griffin, the amateur boxer who embarrassed the organization with his lack of impulse control. Balllmer may be excitable, fun-loving, a master motivator and his team’s biggest and loudest cheerleader, (sorry Clipper Darryl), and he may secretly want to move the team to Seattle, but when it comes to conduct and ethics, he is pretty clear on what he stands for as far as personal values.

He punished Blake Griffin harshly by suspending him four games without pay for hitting the Clippers equipment manager. While a four game suspension (Griffin loses $859,442 of his $18,907,725 salary) doesn’t seem like a lot of games in the course of a long and weary 82-game season, Griffin’s timing was impeccable. He slugged Testi when the games mattered the most.

If the four game suspension was in December, the consequences wouldn’t be a thunderous dark cloud hanging over Griffin’s head. A lot would be dismissed, all the Blake Griffin character questions. All the Blake Griffin impulse control questions. All the Blake Griffin, is he violent questions. Does he have a short trigger? Did Testi taunt him by saying the Clippers were better without him and Griffin, insecure about how the Clippers have achieved, blew up?

Griffin’s suspension will begin after the All-Star break. He is on track for a healthy return from his hand broken by Testi’s face sometime in March but the date is elusive. Because he broke his hand and broken hand injuries are dicey, there is a wide range of scenarios that may take place. He may in fact be back in 6 weeks which would make him eligible to begin his suspension on March 6th. Or, he can be gone much longer. He already had a second procedure on the broken hand.

Not that he was thinking of this in his aggrieved moment, but Blake Griffin put his teammates in a bind. There is the possibility, and it is not a remote one, that he has hijacked the Clippers comfy residence as the third seed in the playoffs, avoiding the Warriors until the conference finals.

The longest suspension this year was the two games Matt Barnes was penalized for punching Derek Fisher in a domestic situation. Griffin’s suspension was double that because of the injuries to Testi’s face. The Clippers equipment manager had to be checked out at an area hospital. The incident itself, in a public restaurant, one punch followed by more punches moments later while outside, required a much harsher penalty.

NBA teams, being as self centered as they are, feel no sympathy for the Clippers trying to untangle this mess. Teams have been calling about Blake Griffin’s availibility in a trade but the Clippers have basically slammed the phone down. Griffin is their only asset in acquiring Kevin Durant. Blake could go home to Oklahoma and Durant could be in Los Angeles. It would be a swap to make everyone happy.

“Blake is remorseful and has apologized for his actions. He is a valued member of our Clippers family and we support him as he rejoins the team.” (Steve Ballmer)

Griffin plans to donate suspension money to charity and work at the charity himself. Aware his image has been put through the shredder, the Kia spokesman has to atone.

One mistake can change everything, that is the cautionary tale here. No longer is Blake Griffin seen as the untouchable Clippers franchise player, as was the case when Donald Sterling owned the team. Griffin’s behavior in a public restaurant, and towards a friend, has thrown up a lot of red flags.

Organizationally, the Clippers want the record clear about what they are going to tolerate from their players. The Blake Griffin punishment is precedent setting for the rest of the NBA from here on out.

If the Clippers fail in the playoffs, it will be Blake Griffin that is blamed. It will be the darkest moment of his Clippers career.


photo via llananba