The Los Angeles Clippers say they are tired of seeing Blake Griffin take hard fouls this season and have both vowed to protect him and called on the league office to do more to discourage hits such as the Suns' Robin Lopez's dangerous clothesline of Griffin last Thursday.
Kobe Bryant, long an admirer of Griffin and his aggressive style, offered up some different advice.
"I'd smack the f--- out of somebody," Bryant told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Wednesday. "I've known him for a while and he's a really nice guy so I don't know if he'd want to do that. But I would. I would've done it early in the year."
Bryant said he endured similar physical challenges from opponents early in his career. He took his cue on how to deal with it by watching his then-teammate Shaquille O'Neal.
"At some point, you have to protect yourself," Bryant said. "I've had to do it many times in my career. I've seen Shaq do it many times, too. Some guys you just don't mess with.
"I saw Shaq crack somebody his first year. I did it my first few years. Sometimes people feel like they can take advantage of you, they hit you and this, that, and the other.
"Sometimes you have to say, 'Look, you're not going to do this to me. I'll take two games but you're not going to put my health at risk by injuring me potentially. It's not going to happen.' "
Griffin has become a target for such fouls for a number of reasons.
"People see how much the plays he makes affect the team, how much it affects the crowd. The physical play is just part of what happens," Clippers forward Ryan Gomes said. "Whenever someone is continuing to have success, you've got to be a little more physical with them to see how they react.
"People don't like getting dunked on, and the rule of basketball is, 'No layups.' "
The young star's 52.2 percent free-throw percentage also has something to do with it.
Griffin generally has declined to speak directly on the issue. When asked about Lopez's foul after a recent practice, Griffin pointed to his still-sore neck and said: "I'm not going to say anything. I'm not going to do anything. Right now, we're playing for something bigger."
Instead Griffin has mostly pleaded his case to referees, often to his detriment. He has been called for 13 technical fouls this season, one of which has been rescinded.
"It's affected me this year a lot, especially with the referees," Griffin told the Orange County Register on April 16. "I'm just getting frustrated and getting myself in trouble with officials.
"You got fouled like that, and a lot of times, it doesn't get called. That's frustrating. But that's on me. It's not about the fouls. I can't blame it on the fouls. I have to do a better job of controlling that."
When asked if the hard fouls against him would get worse once the playoffs started, he smiled and said: "It's funny. Some people on the outside say I have to get used to hard fouls because that's how it's going to be in the playoffs but all my teammates are saying how it's been all year is how it's going to be in the playoffs, so I think I'm kind of prepared from that aspect."
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro called on the league office to suspend Lopez for that foul, which resulted in a flagrant 2 and Lopez's ejection. He also has sent tapes to the league throughout the season of fouls on Griffin that were both called and not called.
"The game is physical and Blake is a physical player," Del Negro said. "As long as it's above board, I think we're all fine with it but when he's up in the air, shots like he took against Phoenix are a big concern. The league has got to step in now.
"There's only so much we can do. Maybe we have to do a better job with hard fouls and different things but hopefully we can use that to our advantage if we get free throws and technical fouls on our side, but it's a different system than all those people talk about. Of course we want to protect everybody and send a message and all this stuff but it's really about playing the right way, playing hard and playing physical. As these games go on, it's only going to get more physical."
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said he felt opponents were "intentionally trying to hurt him" and vowed to do a better job of trying to protect him.
However, forward Reggie Evans seemed to side more with Bryant.
"Blake is 6-10 and what, 240 (pounds) or something? He's a big boy. He should know how to defend himself out there," Evans told the Los Angeles Daily News.
"You're talking about a big man helping out another big man, you know what I'm saying," Evans said. "If I'm in that position people are not going to be doing me like that, you know what I'm saying? I ain't gonna depend on no NBA to take care of it."
Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Arash Markazi was used in this report.