Clippers Have A Dilemma With Griffin


February 4, 2016

As the Clippers ponder their decision about Blake Griffin they have to take into account the franchise’s history.

They cannot escape the reality that there’s been a lot of trouble in the past when Donald Sterling was the owner. It’s always something with the Clippers, or so it seems.

Sterling would refuse to honor contracts of coaches he’d fired. A lot of time was spent in court.

A new era began with wealthy new owner Steve Ballmer and a coach, Doc Rivers, who had an NBA championship on his resume.

It’s not easy to escape the past but the Clippers were getting there. Then they collapsed in their second round playoff loss to Houston last season when they had a 3-1 series advantage, lost that game and blew a huge lead to lose the next one. And finally they lost game seven too.

Same old Clippers. Will they ever get it right?

This season they’ve won more than 30 games at a time the Lakers have won only 10. The Clippers are one of the best teams in the star-studded Western Conference.

But Griffin, their biggest star, punched a Clipper equipment guy and broke his hand.

Not the best example for the star player on a team with championship aspirations.

A lot of fans are wondering if the Clippers will go easy on Griffin or punish him severely to illustrate they really are doing things right now.

The Clippers issued a press release saying it represented the reaction of Ballmer and Rivers. It was harsh, leaving the impression a severe penalty would be forthcoming even if the league suspension of Griffin isn’t more than a few games.

“This conduct has no place in our organization and this incident does not represent who we are as a team. At the conclusion of an investigation appropriate action will be taken.”

The Clippers were 15-3 without Griffin at this writing. Some columnists are suggesting that the Clippers are better off without him. They say the Clippers should trade him.

Rivers was named Western Conference coach of the month for motivating the players to do their jobs so well without Griffin playing.

Let’s not get carried away. In the playoffs, when only the elite teams are playing it’s hard to believe the chances of winning would be better without Griffin.

“They shouldn’t trade him,” said Norm Nixon, the former Laker star who later played for the Clippers.

“They’re a player or two away from being a championship team. It wouldn’t be wise to trade him.”

Bur there’s the matter that Griffin’s hand injury might be worse than we’ve been told. The Clippers say four to six weeks. I’ve heard it might be eight weeks.

Then there’s the reality the Clippers changed their style when Griffin became unavailable. Guys who had hardly been called upon, Luc Mbah a Moute, Cole Aldrich and Pablo Prigioni were thrust into important roles as the Clippers focused harder on defense.

Can the Clippers make a major adjustment again with little practice time when Griffin is healthy enough to play or when he is allowed to play?

Without Griffin, would they be a playoff match for the powerhouses, Golden State, San Antonio or Oklahoma City? Unlikely.

‘Throughout life we learn lessons,” said Rivers. “I’m 54 and I’m still learning. We keep learning and sometimes it’s the hard way. This is a hard lesson for Blake and this one is the hard way.

“It’s also a hard lesson for our team. We have clawed our way up in a tough conference and we have to keep clawing.”

This story doesn’t yet have an ending.

Bosmat Eynav contributed to this column


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