Nighttime denizens of ClipsNation saw the first rumblings of the Blake Griffin story late last night, thanks to watchful editor-in-chief Lucas Hann. Some of the subsequent details have been noted in the thread to that story. This is a quick review, along with a few thoughts and/or guesses on what the meaning of this incident might be.
With a blizzard coming on in New York, rather than stay in the city as planned after they got a nice win in Madison Square Garden, the Clippers flew to Toronto after the game. It might have been at a Saturday workout that Blake Griffin realized or was told that he wouldn't be playing on Sunday. For almost a week he had been on the verge of coming back from a quadriceps injury that caused him to miss 13 games, had been hoping to come back as soon as the big Cleveland game, couldn't play in the Garden, and now would be missing a significant test against Toronto. (At least we think it had been determined that Griffin wouldn't play in the Toronto game; that's speculative.)
Griffin was at dinner in Toronto on Saturday night. Also with him was Clipper equipment staffer Mathias Testi (again, all of this is "reported," awaiting official comfirmation), who is quite friendly with close buddies Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. I heard on the radio (980--Plaschke and Zelasko, talking to Ralph Lawler and later Dan Woike--I'll come back to Plaschke in a minute) that Testi had even vacationed with Griffin in Europe. It was also said that DJ and Griffin like to give Testi a hard time, but it seems to have been done, in the past at least, in friendship. As Woike said, Testi is "the guy who makes sure that Blake has the socks he needs." Whether or not they were ever in Europe, the fact that they were at dinner together suggests a friendly relationship.
The part that we know (mostly reported by former Clipper commentator Michael Eaves, now working for ESPN), or think we know, is that Griffin got in a fight with Testi inside the restaurant, punching him. Eaves did not identify Testi specifically, only saying an "equipment manager," which was incorrect--he's an equipment staffer. Testi went outside the restaurant, and Blake followed him and punched him again, perhaps repeatedly. Testi has facial injuries, but there's no report that he was hospitalized. The Toronto police were never contacted or brought in (according to Woike).
Both Griffin and Testi returned to Los Angeles on Sunday. The Clippers had a game that evening. Ralph Lawler didn't know anything about the incident at that time (or during his radio interview yesterday morning), but it was noted on the radio this morning that Doc Rivers informed the team about it before the game--explaining Griffin's (and Testi's) absence. There was a report that Griffin was not going to return to the court on the road trip, and that he was flying home. Perhaps we can guess that he hurt his hand in the "fight"/beating--speculation there--and it was x-rayed after he got back to LA, while at the same time Clipper insiders were trying to determine what happened and chart a course forward, all while watching the team get thumped by Toronto. I don't know when the team made the flight to Indiana. None of this information came out yesterday, at least not until last night.
As speculative identification of Mathias Testi evolved this morning, along with notes on his prior relationship with Griffin and DJ, Doc Rivers met with the press before the team's shootaround in Indianapolis, but he declined to discuss the incident in any way. It was said that the Clippers would make a statement at some point (before the game), and Doc said that he would discuss the incident in his pregame press session. The game is an early one for LA Clipper fans/west coast viewers, starting at 4pm our time, so we shouldn't be too far away from the press statement and Doc's comments.
That's an update. The timing is bad--but there's never good timing for something like this. There are all sorts of questions, and they will all get asked over the course of the afternoon and the coming days. We may never know the exact source of the confrontation, and what caused Griffin to become enraged and endanger his livelihood and reputation. All we know is that it happened.
Bill Plaschke immediately jumped towards the idea that Griffin might no longer be welcome in the Clippers organization, that he couldn't function as the face of the team along with Chris Paul, and that he might be traded very quickly. This was hard to hear--but Plaschke is going to be Plaschke, and he's probably writing a story to that effect as we speak, now that he's done with his radio show. The incident is also being seen as further evidence of Clipper dysfunction, which moves from new owner Steve Balmer and new president Gillian Zucker and president/GM/coach Doc Rivers on down to supposed long-standing divisions between Blake and DJ and Chris Paul. I know that the Clippers are a dramatic bunch, but part of that is being in the LA market and overshadowing the Lakers for the last few years, and trying to build and compete as an elite franchise in the wake of the Donald Sterling exile, with a pair of legitimate superstars and a lot of roster turnover in trying to surround them with a strong supporting cast.
The ongoing Clipper drama is ramping up today. We'll see how it plays out, and then we'll get to see the team play tonight/this afternoon, their 15th game without Blake Griffin in the lineup. I for one have a lot of trouble seeing how this very unfortunate and regrettable incident, perhaps a terrible fight between two friends, would cause Blake Griffin to leave the Clippers. People always seem to be extra-quick to find reasons to break up the Clippers core--it was being discussed on a thread just yesterday, and there was a story suggesting that the Clippers might want to trade Chris Paul to Cleveland for Kyrie Irving. Why would the Clippers want to do that? And why would this terrible incident make the Clippers want to trade Blake Griffin? I can't think of a single reason, but maybe other people can. Others with think or joke that the culture created by Doc Rivers is to blame somehow. But the truth seems to be much sadder than that. The truth is that a young man who lives in the spotlight, who is big and strong and powerful and potentially very dangerous, lost his cool and became violent and lashed out. And there will be grave personal consequences for that, starting with him not being able to return to the lineup and the basketball court any time soon. It's a sad day.