TNT analyst Charles Barkley hasn't been much of a force in terms of dunking on poor saps in about 20 years. That's nothing against Chuck. He was an MVP-level player in a couple of seasons after his development as an all-around scorer, and he ably played in the NBA until the 1999-00 season, but his time spent as a Blake Griffin-type ended about two decades ago. His body, based on the type of physical abuse the typical rim-basher puts up with, is probably thanking him for developing that jump shot and that low post footwork.
Blake Griffin is still dunking away without much of a post game to show for it, and though he's led his Los Angeles Clippers to the playoffs this season, he's still a bit miffed that he seems to get hit harder than the average bear on his way towards the rim -- like when Phoenix's Robin Lopez tackled his way through Griffin on Thursday night. This might partially be a function of jealousy, or resentment at the league-wide posters Griffin tends to create, but it's mostly a function (as we pointed out earlier this week) of the fact that Griffin makes just over half of his free-throw attempts. Why get dunked on, opponents think, when you can wrap the guy up and watch as he typically splits a pair?
Griffin is "sick" of the hard fouls, and Barkley appears to be pretty sick of watching Blake get tossed around without much retribution from his Clipper teammates. Clipper teammates that, as you'll see in a video after the jump, are a lovable bunch of goofballs that like to do the robot during practice. First, let's watch Charles look directly into the camera to tell Blake's iffy footwork and Clipper teammates off:
There's a problem here. Barkley grew up in a different NBA era, one in which we saw the best teams in the league work hard defensively to take tough fouls, draw charges and make sure the league's dodgier free-throw artists had to earn their points from the line. As lower-ranked teams realized that the style of play Barkley's 76ers (or the Pistons, or Lakers, or Celtics, or eventually Bulls and Knicks) was part of the key to their success, the rest of the NBA began to employ this physical style. Everyone does it now. Every one is a Piston, even if they only win two games out of 10. Physical play and hard fouls are a hallmark of the better teams any more. They're a hallmark of every team.
(Except for the Wizards.)
Things got out of hand, games grew nasty and the league had to take to the rule book in order to change things. Flagrant fouls were enforced, punches were rewarded with suspensions and anyone who dared leave the bench in a "conflict" was suspended automatically. The league, to its credit, cleaned up the game. And Barkley, advancing in years at this point, was changing his game as well.
This is a long way of saying that the days of rewarding one hard foul with another are just about shot to hell. You can't get away with retaliatory fouls as much anymore, for fear of suspension from a key game (or, yes, a game's worth of salary plus a fine). Or, in the case of the foul-happy Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, you're just trying to stay on the court.
There's a problem with this, though.
Jordan isn't nearly as foul-happy as he used to be, averaging a rather sensible 3.8 fouls for every 36 minutes he plays. He can afford to take one, or two more. He can afford to go after whatever opposing big man that just laid the smack down on Griffin with a hard one of his own. Sure, it might cost the team a point or Jordan a flagrant foul; but chances are that ruffian (O, the ruffians …) on the other side is a pretty crummy free-throw shooters as well.
Usually I think the idea of responding in this eye-for-an-eye manner is trite, and almost an anachronism in the modern NBA. But here? With the Clippers attempting to make a move in the West? With the sheer amount of hard fouls Griffin (who, admittedly, has annoyed the hell out of most of us this year with his moaning at the referees) takes? It wouldn't hurt to make it hurt, Clippers.
Do I get to be a gym coach, now?
Just a little bit, if only to make Griffin feel better about his time spent in the Clipper frontcourt, and to keep him from getting too wrapped up in the back-and-forth with the refs. Not as a preemptive strike, and not as some lame statement of implied toughness or celebration of manliness. Gag. Just something to keep the 23-year-old happy.
And, by the way, let's not forget that this guy is just 23. As evidenced by this video about the impending Clipper playoff beards, as originally grabbed by The Basketball Jones: