COMMENTARY | "I love my teammates like family, but I'm DONE standing up for these ...! All this ... does is cost me money."
These are the words of a $25,000 tweet from Los Angeles Clippers resident tough-guy Matt Barnes. Barnes was ejected after shoving Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka during the Thunder-Clippers tilt this Wednesday.
What was Ibaka's offense? Getting a little bit too physical with superstar Blake Griffin for the second time this calendar year. While the first time was an overt shot to the man region that no player should have to endure, Griffin's most recent encounter with Prince Akeem was hardly a legitimate scuffle, yet Barnes felt the need to step in.
Truth in ControversyMuch has been made about the content of Barnes' tweet. Should racial slurs be tolerated if a member of a particular group says them? Also, who deems who is real and who's real and who's not? Many of the African-American players on the Miami Dolphins deemed that Richie Incognito was "real" and Jonathan Martin was not. In Barnes' situation, the only conclusion that has been made is that this sort of situation is complicated.
Political correctness aside, Barnes was absolutely correct. He does need to stop standing up for his teammates. Especially Blake Griffin. By no means should Barnes or any other player let his teammate get beat up or injured, but hovering over the Clippers' golden child will ultimately do more harm than good.
As the NBA's newest human highlight reel, Griffin is openly disliked by players who feel that he receives preferential treatment. They claim that he attacks the rim with reckless abandon and frequently uses his off hand to ward off defenders that would almost certainly be called an offensive foul if it were any other player. They also malign his KIA-sponsored dunk contest win and are generally afraid of being Mozgov-ed or Perkins-ed. Also, in between highlights of Griffin on every sports network, they are forced to see him in a seemingly never-ending onslaught of commercials.
Let Griffin Be Tough
Most of these feelings reveal a common thread in NBA circles, that people are jealous of Blake Griffin. Not of his talent (no NBA player would doubt his own skill), but of his sudden rise to prominence and perceived special treatment. This has effectively made Griffin a marked man, and marked men need security.
Throughout his young career, Griffin has his share of tough guys to serve as goons for the dozens of almost-fights that occur during an NBA season. Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans, and now Matt Barnes have each stepped into the scrum for Griffin each of the last three seasons. It's typical for wily vets to look out for a young star player but as a post player entering his fourth season, his fifth since being drafted (he missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury), Griffin can stand up for himself. He just needs to be given the chance.
Last summer, current Piston, and former Clippers resident old guy, Chauncey Billups claimed that Griffin was too nice and most people agreed with that sentiment. Blake Griffin is undoubtedly a nice guy, but like most athletes he has a mean streak fueled by competition; he just needs to be let off of his proverbial leash. If Matt Barnes didn't jump into to rescue Griffin on Wednesday, he would of not only have saved his hard-earned cash but also would have seen that Griffin is capable of taking care of himself.
As the Clippers' and the NBA's golden goose, Griffin is almost not allowed to assert his toughness to maintain an marketable image. Amazing dunks will always supersede any potential negative press that Griffin would endure for getting into his first glorified shoving match. With the Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies coming to Staples Center on Monday, Griffin has his chance to prove to the haters and his teammates that nice and tough aren't mutually exclusive.
Brandon lives in Los Angeles and watches sports more than a normal person should. He was written and podcasted for SLAMonline, and is a former Los Angeles Clippers Intern.
- Sports & Recreation
- Matt Barnes
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Blake Griffin
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Serge Ibaka