The Los Angeles Clippers have recently voiced their concern over opponents' physical play with Blake Griffin, claiming that they will protect him and dish out some hard fouls of their own when necessary. That's standard practice in a league where maintaining a tough identity and keeping stars healthy stand paramount. Griffin will eventually learn to handle that punishment better, but the Clippers will still do what they have to.
Other teams and players have different solutions to the problem. Like, for instance, Kobe Bryant, who thinks that Griffin should smack the [expletive] out of somebody. From Ramona Shelburne for ESPNLosAngeles.com (via PBT):
"I'd smack the f--- out of somebody," Bryant told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Wednesday. "I've known him for a while and he's a really nice guy so I don't know if he'd want to do that. But I would. I would've done it early in the year."
Bryant said he endured similar physical challenges from opponents early in his career. He took his cue on how to deal with it by watching his then-teammate Shaquille O'Neal.
"At some point, you have to protect yourself," Bryant said. "I've had to do it many times in my career. I've seen Shaq do it many times, too. Some guys you just don't mess with.
"I saw Shaq crack somebody his first year. I did it my first few years. Sometimes people feel like they can take advantage of you, they hit you and this, that, and the other.
"Sometimes you have to say, 'Look, you're not going to do this to me. I'll take two games but you're not going to put my health at risk by injuring me potentially. It's not going to happen.'"
It's an interesting and controversial suggestion, particularly in the wake of teammate Metta World Peace's elbow and suspension. On the other hand, it's also an approach to the situation that befits Kobe, an athlete who never shies away from a challenge and does whatever possible to make sure he holds a psychological edge over his opponents.
That doesn't mean that it's fine for players to smack the crud out of each other on purpose — on-court violence of any kind should be taken out of the sport whenever possible. But Kobe's comments speak to a common type of violence in the sport. Often, players will get in small fights or mix it up in the paint to prove a point. It's been that way for decades, and the idea that Griffin would retaliate for that treatment himself is really just a lateral move from having teammates carry out the same tactics.
It's better for the Clippers if Griffin doesn't do this, because they need him on the court whenever possible. However, it's worth noting that these statements really aren't that crazy in the general context of the league. Players protect themselves and their teammates all the time. Sometimes it gets out of hand, but that's to be expected in such a physical sport.