Clippers vow to 'protect' Blake Griffin

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Clippers are tired of seeing Blake Griffin take hard fouls and have vowed to protect their All-Star forward if it continues.

"I feel like people are intentionally trying to hurt him," Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said. "It'll all come back around."

Late in the fourth quarter of the Clippers' loss to the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, Suns center Robin Lopez was ejected for a flagrant foul on Griffin. On Sunday, Griffin will see New Orleans Hornets center Jason Smith on the court for the first time since Smith was ejected and suspended two games for a flagrant foul on Griffin in the fourth quarter of their game last month.

The criticism of Griffin and his teammates in the past is they haven't done enough to retaliate after those hard fouls.

"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."

Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro laughed off criticism that the Clippers haven't done enough to protect Griffin. He said much of the criticism comes from former players that don't understand how much the game has changed in terms of fines and a point system where the accumulation of flagrant fouls throughout the course of a season can warrant a suspension.

"What do all these people think you should do? Do they know the rules?" Del Negro said. "Do they know there's a point system? Do they know back when a lot of those guys played and you took guys out it was a $1,000 and now its game suspensions and points? You have to understand the rules and you have to understand there are times to do certain things.

"Of course, we're going to do whatever we can to protect Blake and to protect any player but there's also a time and place to do it. You can only get so many technical fouls and you can only do so many things. It's up to the league to step in to put enough suspensions and fines on people when it happens as best they can."

Del Negro has sent tapes to the league throughout the season on the hard fouls Griffin has taken and is hoping the league will increase the suspension time and fines for players on future flagrant fouls on Griffin to prevent it from being such a common occurrence.

"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."

Griffin was tired of talking about the hard fouls on Saturday, saying, "I'm not going to say anything. I'm not going to do anything. Right now we're playing for something bigger."

He did, however, smile when asked if the hard fouls against him would get worse once the playoffs started.

"It's funny," Griffin said. "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."