Looming much larger over the Clippers was continuing uncertainty about when they might see the real-life version back in his home arena. Griffin presumably will appear in a suit on the bench long before he's able to put on a uniform.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said the team had completed its part of the investigation into an altercation a week ago in Toronto in which Griffin repeatedly punched team assistant equipment manager Matias Testi, leaving Griffin with a broken right hand and Testi with a severely swollen face.
“We're very satisfied with all the information we have,” Rivers said before the Clippers defeated the Lakers, 105-93, for their ninth consecutive victory in the series. “For us, it's closed.”
Punishment for Griffin could be announced as soon as early next week, said a person close to the situation not authorized to discuss it publicly. Rivers said the NBA would take the lead in determining disciplinary measures, which could include a suspension and/or a fine.
Griffin is already slated to miss four to six weeks because of his broken hand. Rivers intimated that Griffin would rejoin his teammates on the bench once his punishment was announced but said he was unsure when Testi would return to the locker room.
Rivers said Griffin had expressed remorse in conversations with the coach and his teammates. Griffin also has resumed speaking to Testi, Rivers said, though the coach did not know whether the longtime friends had reached an agreement that would avoid a legal entanglement.
“He feels awful about it and he's let everyone know that,” Rivers said of Griffin. “That's all you can do, man. You have to forgive people at some point. I believe that. We built Richard Nixon a library.”
Rivers invoked the name of another controversial U.S. president while discussing whether the use of alcohol precipitated the altercation.
“It depends on what you call ‘alcohol,'” Rivers said. “I feel like Bill Clinton right now. It really does. Did guys have a drink? I'm sure they did. Other than that, I'm going to say, no, alcohol wasn't involved.”
Rivers said he knew what led to the scuffle but wouldn't divulge any specifics.
Rivers would not say whether the team intended to require anger management courses for Griffin, who was also involved in an October 2014 incident in which he allegedly grabbed a man at a Las Vegas nightclub after the man had taken pictures of Clippers players with his cellphone. Misdemeanor battery charges were later dropped in the case because of insufficient evidence.
“If that's what it takes, we'll do it,” Rivers said of anger management, “but one step at a time right now.”
Griffin appeared on the scoreboard twice during the game against the Lakers, triggering no audible response from fans at the designated Clippers home game. His face was shown as usual as part of the Clippers' pregame video introduction and at halftime in a Kia advertisement.
As far as the way his team was playing without Griffin, Rivers said he was largely satisfied. The Clippers have gone 14-3 since Griffin last played, which was against the Lakers on Christmas before he was sidelined by a quadriceps injury.
“I look at our team moving forward, we can be really good,” Rivers said. “We've just got to get Blake back first.”
Griffin's absence has forced the Clippers into some unconventional lineups, occasionally playing four guards at a time and staggering starters with reserves more than Rivers typically likes. The new oddity Friday was 6-foot-5 Lance Stephenson at backup power forward because Paul Pierce sat out the game to rest.
It worked. Stephenson scored 16 points on six-for-seven shooting, including a ferocious one-handed dunk over Julius Randle in the fourth quarter that helped the Clippers pull away in what had been a taut game.
“It's going to give guys a lot of confidence,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said of the adjustments with Griffin out. “We can win games and stuff like that, but we need [No.] 32 to win this championship.”