May 2, 2012; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies fan holds up a sign during the first half of game two in the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers at FedEx Forum. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE
Author's Note: There's been way too much internet blood spilled over this topic in the past 8 hours, especially on the Straight Outta Vancouver and Clips Nation comment threads, so we're going to address this issue one final time, and then move on. I am offering up my opinion, and feel free to either praise me or take me to task in the comments. However, after this post, I don't want to see any more arguments on the matter from fans of either side in any future threads. Consider this post your bridge to get over the matter.
By now, you've no doubt heard that in the 3rd quarter of last night's game LA forward Blake Griffin drove to the hoop, came into contact with center Marc Gasol, and fell to the floor clutching his knee. Griffin lay on the floor for a full 45 seconds during which time the Memphis crowd booed him. Color commentator Chris Weber was quick to scold the home crowd, and various NBA scribes have weighed in on the matter. The belief from many is that the Grizzlies' fans demonstrated a real lack of class by booing an injured player.
Ultimately, this whole affair comes down to one thing: the Clippers', and Blake Griffin specifically, perceived reputation as floppers. Although respected Clippers' blogger Steve Perrin has attempted to demonstrate that this perception is undeserved, the reality is that this is a narrative which began in the regular season and is, in this writer's opinion, well-earned.
Though he is as tough as any player in the league, Chris Paul will do what he has to in order to get the calls that he wants and has done so throughout his career. However, Paul is rarely villified in basketball circles, instead that distinction goes to Blake Griffin. Despite the fact that fans appreciate his work ethic and highlight-reel dunks, a discourse his emerged surrounding the young star. Time and time, his face would bunch up into what can be best described as a "whine" after a non-call by an official. While this is nothing new to the NBA--many players react in the same manner, most notably Tim Duncan--it is normally a tactic utilized by established and respected veterans, whereas the general feeling is that Griffin, as a second-year player, has not "earned the right." Additionally, he has had his fair share of blatant flops during the regular season, which have further tarnished his reputation. It really began to hurt the Clippers when the "media....latched onto this narrative," as Perrin himself wrote; LAC was dubbed "Flop City" (it's worth noting that it was not Grizzlies' fans who created this label).
While it is absolutely true that Memphis has attempted more free throws in the postseason, the Clippers have not stopped their antics either. It's possible that the officials are punishing Griffin, and by extension the Clippers; we often forget that the officials do take a certain pride in their performance and Blake's constant questioning of their judgment only serves to humiliate them. Likewise, they could simply be rewarding Memphis, a team which has a reputation for playing hard and getting their heads down. Regardless, the Clippers have had several key flops which may have determined the outcome of this series. Frankly, there's been bad calls on both sides and I've tried to stay out of any debates about the matter, but most Grizzlies' fans have stronger feelings on this than I do. However, I do believe Griffin's flop in Game 3 which earned Gasol his 5th foul cost us the game.
All of these negative feelings came to a headway last night when Griffin went down. When the fans booed they weren't booing an injured player, rather they were reacting to both what they had seen in this series and Griffin's reputation. I disagreed with this at the time (and obviously I still do). However, there's a couple of points that must be made. The first is that Blake Griffin has made his bed (i.e. his reputation), and he must lie in it. Is it really unbelieveable that a frustrated fanbase on the verge of elimination who has observed this one too many times already wouldn't at least question the legitimacy of his injury? The second is that we all do spontaneous things that we end up regreting, especially in a crowd or mob setting. While what they did was regrettable, the Memphis fans have demonstrated nothing but class throughout their (mostly tortured) tenure, and do not deserve to have their faces rubbed in their mistakes. I'm sure many of the fans who booed last night already feel sorry for their actions (and they should), but they do not deserve to be called out by anyone. Memphis will own up to its own mistakes, and the rest of the league would be best served to keep their mouths shut.