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Monday, April 23, 2012
Stop dangerous fouls, make the star sit

By Beckley Mason

Blake Griffin has received his share of hard fouls this season. After Robin Lopez earned a Flagrant 2 and an ejection for collaring Griffin on Thursday, Griffin's teammate DeAndre Jordan vowed to protect his buddy. ESPN LA's Arash Markazi reported Jordan’s statement in practice the next day, when Jordan essentially said he would put the hurt on anyone or any team that went after Griffin.

"If Blake gets fouled, I can't go punch someone in the nose," Jordan said. “We can't do that but throughout the course of a game, other fouls happen to other players on the opposite team and if they happen to be hard fouls, they happen to be hard fouls. We're going to protect our teammates; it doesn't matter who it is."

Jordan was threatening to be the Clippers’ enforcer, a time-honored role in the NBA. Fortunately, this kind of threat has been on the decline since the league has taken steps to curb the violence in the game -- particularly fighting and fouls that endanger players.

But violence hasn't disappeared in the NBA, and the matter is complicated by the relative value of the players involved.

Consider that Robin Lopez has little value compared to Blake Griffin, so if Lopez had taken Griffin out of the game, it would have been a much more damaging blow to the Clippers, even as it was a Suns player committing the infraction. Or how about Sunday, when Metta World Peace was ejected for brutally elbowing star Thunder guard James Harden in the head -- though it wasn’t a part of the L.A. game plan, the exit of World Peace and Harden was a net gain for the Lakers, who eventually came back and won the game.

Clippers VP of basketball operations Neil Olshey has a HoopIdea that could lessen the incentive for NBA violence. He told ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz that rather than simply ejecting the offending player, the team that is flagrantly fouled should have the ability to choose which player sits.

After the ejection of Lopez on Thursday night, the Suns still had all their top players on the court and eventually came back to beat the Clippers. In Olshey’s world, they would have had to do it without a star player: "I want Steve Nash to sit, not Robin Lopez."

In other words, Olshey thinks the stars should pay for the sins of the goon.

A player like Lopez or Jordan might be willing to sacrifice his ability to play to make a statement to an opposing star and team -- that's part of the job description. But would he be as willing to do so if it meant his own star teammate would have to sit?

On Sunday, Olshey's HoopIdea could have forced the Lakers to attempt their second-half comeback without the services of Kobe Bryant. If the league really wants to keep goons from running amok, punishing stars, and thereby their teams, for their goons' rough play is a good place to start.