Good time turned ugly after teasing for Blake Griffin and Clippers assistant
Blake Griffin and Clippers assistant equipment manager Matias Testi had some dinner companions they knew well over the weekend.
One was Clippers center DeAndre Jordan and the other was Joe Resendez, the team’s assistant athletic trainer and travel manager.
“Those guys are really close friends of mine, like brothers to me,” Jordan said of Griffin and Testi.
What was supposed to be a dinner among friends in Toronto’s entertainment district on Saturday took a horrific turn when Griffin repeatedly punched Testi, leaving his longtime buddy with a severely swollen face and Griffin with a broken right hand.
Griffin and Testi had engaged in some of their routine back-and-forth teasing when things became heated, with the confrontation starting inside the restaurant and continuing outside and involving multiple blows from Griffin, said a person with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Jordan would not elaborate on what happened or say whether he tried to intervene when asked about the incident Wednesday after the Clippers defeated the Atlanta Hawks, 85-83, at Philips Arena.
“It’s a tough situation,” Jordan said. “Two guys that I’m super close with and it’s sticky, man. It’s tough.”
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said Griffin and Testi would be welcomed back to the team, with Griffin “most likely” set to attend the team’s game against the Lakers on Friday at Staples Center.
“Everybody will be back,” Rivers said. “We’re a team and we’re still a team and Blake’s part of our team and he’s going to remain part of our team and we have to support him and support everybody. It’s not just the players.... Everyone is part of our team that’s in our travel group.”
The incident involving Griffin and Testi placed players and other team personnel in an uneasy position because of their allegiances to both the All-Star forward and the team employee who was popular in the locker room.
“We’re all like family,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said. “That’s how we’re going to deal with this, as a family.”
Jordan and Resendez were interviewed Wednesday in Atlanta by NBA security investigating the altercation, according to league officials who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. NBA officials are expected to soon interview Griffin and Testi while determining whether there is video of the incident from the restaurant.
No police report was filed after Testi downplayed the situation on the scene and told police he was OK, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
Officers from the Toronto Police Service arrived at the restaurant but were satisfied with the explanation they received from Testi and Griffin after the friends explained what had happened and told the officers there was no need to escalate the situation, said the person with knowledge of the situation. Police did not take their names because there was no report on file, said Jenifferjit Sidhu, a media relations officer with the Toronto Police Service.
“We have no victim, we have no report,” Sidhu said Wednesday.
Testi worked the Clippers’ game against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday and traveled with the team to Indianapolis before flying to Los Angeles on Monday. Several players learned of the altercation only hours before the game against the Raptors, a 112-94 defeat.
Griffin returned to Los Angeles on Sunday, with a Clippers spokesman telling The Times he had departed because he had not recovered sufficiently from a quadriceps injury to play in the final three games of the team’s trip.
The spokesman later said he did not become aware of the severity of the Griffin’s hand injury until Monday night but that Griffin would have returned to Los Angeles even had he not been involved in the altercation.
Griffin apologized on Twitter on Tuesday, a gesture Rivers described as “very nice.” Rivers said Griffin had spoken with several players individually, though he has not addressed the team directly about the incident.
“I mean, he feels awful about it,” Rivers said. “Clearly, we feel awful about it. He’s a good guy, he had a bad moment and it’s just part of life and you have to deal with it.”
Griffin’s hand injury will sideline him for at least four weeks. He also faces a possible fine and/or suspension, which is expected to be announced well before his return.
T.O. Souryal, former president of the NBA Physicians Assn. and a team doctor with the Dallas Mavericks for more than 22 years, said the timetable given by the Clippers for Griffin’s injury to heal was realistic and that Griffin should have no limitations upon his return.
Souryal said Griffin’s partially torn left quadriceps tendon, which has sidelined him since the day after Christmas, should benefit from the additional rest created by the new injury.
Meanwhile, the media weren’t the only ones asking questions about the Griffin altercation.
A loyal season-ticket holder sent an email to Griffin, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and The Times asking for Griffin to explain his behavior and, barring a satisfactory account, to refund money in the form of a charitable donation for the games he misses as a result of his hand injury and any suspension.
“We season-ticket holders prepaid for the entire season in the expectation that you would play most of the games if not all of them,” wrote Roger Jon Diamond, noting he had held season tickets since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1984. “At a minimum, no one expected that you would commit a crime and attack a fellow employee.”
Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.
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