Blazers center Joel Pryzbilla tries to stop Clippers power forward Blake… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
Though Clippers star forward Blake Griffin didn't speak to the media during his team's pregame shootaround Saturday morning, his coach, Vinny Del Negro, and teammate Chris Paul did.
And each of them more than stuck up for Griffin, who Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins said after Thursday's game was "babied" by referees and is an "actor" on the court.
"I think Blake is a good actor, I’ve seen his commercials," Del Negro quipped Saturday, hours before the Kings and the Clippers were scheduled to tip off in a rematch game at Staples Center. "I think he does a good job with them. But I wouldn’t say he’s an actor on the court."
Paul said he hadn't heard about Cousins' comments, which were made to a Sports Illustrated reporter and for which Cousins was later fined $25,000 by the NBA, until a reporter notified him about them after the shootaround.
"That's fine," Paul said. "We won. He lost. We're competing for the playoffs. He's not."
The Kings have a 19-36 record and are next to last in the Western Conference standings, while the Clippers are 33-22 and are in fourth place in the standings heading into Saturday's game.
The Clippers won Thursday's game 93-85, a game so physical that Kings Coach Keith Smart quipped afterward, "I thought that was a great football game tonight." [For the record, 1:37 p.m., April 7: An earlier version of this post incorrectly listed Kings as the winner of Thursday's game.]
After the game, Cousins motioned for Griffin to meet him in the arena tunnel.
Around the league lately, Griffin's style of play has been the subject of discussion, both from Cousins and the Lakers' Pau Gasol, whom Griffin dunked on multiple times in a recent game.
As to why he's been so talked-about, Paul said, simply, "People are tired of getting put on SportsCenter every night."
Paul added, "He plays hard every night. He plays hard every possession. A lot of guys would love to be able to do what he does. So sometimes, it’s other guys just competing against him harder because they want that sort of same status and stature that he has and sometimes it’s jealousy. You just never know where it’s coming from."
Del Negro had a different take.
"I think it’s good," he said. "People are thinking about us, thinking about him. That hasn’t been the past of this team a lot and this organization. Maybe we’re on the minds of some people. I think that’s a good thing. It’s a physical game out there, Blake is a physical player. He’s going to attack the rim. I think he’s done a great job with his composure and his poise. As the season has gone on, I think he’s done a good job kind of getting a feel for that."
Del Negro said he didn't think the criticism would affect Griffin at all.
"Blake is going to play hard, dive on the floor, be aggressive, that’s the way he plays," Del Negro said. "I don’t think any of that has an impact on him right now or ever."
After Wednesday's game against the Lakers, the Lakers asked the NBA to review three plays that involved Griffin. One of them, a third-quarter shove on Gasol, was upgraded to a flagrant-one foul on Friday.
Del Negro shook his head back and forth for nine seconds before answering a question about that reversal.
"I don't think it was a flagrant foul, but that's not my decision," Del Negro said. "He wasn't trying to hurt anybody and it was in the flow of the game. He gets hit a lot harder than that, I can tell you that."
Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins get quick rematch
Blake Griffin given flagrant foul 1 for shoving Pau Gasol
Clippers prove they can rebound with a win at Sacramento
Clippers react to comments that Blake Griffin is 'babied'