The Clippers lost to the Hornets last night. This is bad for a few reasons:
1. The Clippers are much, much better than the Hornets.
2. The Clippers have lost three in a row, and head coach Vinny del Negro could get the axe any day now.
3. The game marked Chris Paul’s return to New Orleans for the first time since they shipped him to LA before the season.
But looking back on the game, more interesting than the result is the massive, unconscionable hit New Orleans’ Jason Smith laid on Blake Griffin as the Clips’ star forward was streaking toward the basket.
“I thought that whole bounty thing was an NFL problem?” you ask. Well, you’re right, which means that Smith must’ve been satisfied sheerly with the raw pleasure of annihilating another human being. Or something.
Let’s break down this play down frame-by-frame. TO THE TAPE:
As you can see, Blake gets the ball just outside the 3-point arc, at the bottom of the screen. Smith, above him and slightly behind, decides he’ll try and stop him at the hoop; Griffin tends to drive all the way and finish at the rim rather than pull up. Smith has help from another Hornet — I think it’s Greivis Vasquez.
As soon as Blake crosses the 3-point line, Smith breaks toward him. At first, it looks as though, because he has help from Vasquez, Smith has decided to try and strip Griffin right around the point where he enters the paint — not a bad idea, considering most players who meet BG at the rim end up on a poster.
Here’s where things start to get icky. Blake hits the paint, and Smith is still going full-speed at him, arms down, leading with his shoulder. Here’s a haiku about how I felt right about now:
Jason Smith has rage
In his soul; look at the size
Of that crazy bro.
A quick skim of Jason Smith’s Wikipedia page doesn’t show any evidence of linebacker-ing in his past. What it does show is a career 13.7 minutes per game, 2.9 rebounds, and 4.1 points. Blake’s averages: 37.4 minutes, 11.6 rebounds, 21.9 points. So we’re obviously talking about players of equal value.
Prepare for impact.
Here’s another haiku:
I’ve seen nuclear
Bombs drop with less force than this.
Smith hit Griffin hard.
Blake goes horizontal, and Smith immediately puts his hands up in the classic pose of “I KNOW MILLIONS OF PEOPLE JUST SAW ME DO THIS BUT SERIOUSLY GUYS IT WASN’T ME.”
Hitting the deck hard, Blake begins sliding across the court toward the baseline. Smith keeps running into the crowd. That sound you hear is Kia executives spitting out their nightcaps.
By this point, Smith has practically left the stadium — he’s toward the edge of the frame. Blake, meanwhile, has come to rest on his back, basically looking like he’s been dumped on the ground by Zeus. Also, this is the point where you can see the first Clipper running into the scene, ready to pulverize Smith.
That red arrow shows how far Smith has strayed from the court. He had so much momentum! Also, 13 large men want to tear his arms off.
A few seconds after he got nailed, Blake has curled up on his stomach, and his teammates are trying to decide whether they should stop and check on him first or catch Smith before he disappears into the protection of the crowd. You can’t see this in the frames, obviously, but the New Orleans fans gave Smith a standing ovation as he walked out after being ejected.
If you hit someone this hard in real-life, you’d probably get thrown in jail. If you hit someone this hard in football, you’d probably flex your muscles toward the opposing team’s bench. (And if the person you hit this hard was Tim Tebow, you’d probably Tebow over his prone and shaking carcass.)
In football, though, everyone’s wearing pads, and it’s on grass, and so, surprise! it doesn’t hurt quite as much. Come on, Jason Smith. Haven’t the Clippers been through enough lately?
Fortunately, Blake didn’t sustain any serious injuries.