It could be worse. The Clippers could be playing a team with a better record than 30 games below .500.
They get the Lakers on Friday at Staples Center, which is as close to a breather as the NBA schedule allows. It comes at a time when the Clippers need to exhale. They have dealt with the breathless details of a fiasco involving All-Star Blake Griffin, who actually won’t be an All-Star this season after the Western Conference coaches passed on the power forward who repeatedly punched a team assistant equipment manager last weekend in Toronto.
Griffin suffered a broken right hand in the incident that is expected to keep him out four to six weeks, not to mention disciplinary action that’s likely to include a suspension imposed by the Clippers and the NBA.
A decision also is facing Clippers assistant equipment manager Matias Testi, who was left with a severely swollen face from Griffin’s punches.
Those will be among the many questions reporters will likely lob at Clippers Coach Doc Rivers on Friday before his team tries to extend its eight-game winning streak in the Hallway Rivalry. Another possible inquiry: Does Griffin need anger-management courses considering what happened in Toronto and another incident in October 2014 in which a man alleged Griffin grabbed him after using his cellphone to take pictures of Clippers players at a nightclub in Las Vegas?
“Listen, man, that whole situation is unfortunate,” Clippers guard Austin Rivers said Wednesday of the incident involving Griffin and Testi. “That’s the best way to say it, honestly. All jokes aside, it was an unfortunate thing. [Things] happens sometimes, you know what I mean? He’s not perfect and he knows what he did. He knows what he did was wrong and they’re going to figure it out.”
The Lakers nearly pulled off a Christmas miracle the last time the teams played, shaving what was once a 28-point deficit to single digits in the fourth quarter before the Clippers finally decided they weren’t going to let third-stringer Marcelo Huertas beat them. Incidentally, that was the last game Griffin played before being sidelined by a partially torn left quadriceps tendon.
It’s probably a good thing for the Clippers the rematch Friday is a home game for them. That means Griffin would likely receive a much warmer reception, should he decide to show up, than a chorus of boos and ugly chants that would have awaited him otherwise.
Doc Rivers said Griffin would “most likely” attend the game, but it remained unclear whether the player would address the situation. Another question is if and when Testi will come back to the team after Rivers said he was welcome to return. Testi worked the Clippers’ game against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday but has not been around the team since.
“It will be good to see him,” Austin Rivers said of Griffin. “You learn from your lessons. He’s learned from his lessons in all this — all this stuff he has to deal with right now. We don’t have to fine him. I know the NBA is probably going to do something anyway, so we won’t have to do anything else. So we’re just going to move on and that’s it.”