As the 2016 calendar year comes to an end, the LWOS MCXM series captures the 10 most captivating moments and storylines from 2016 in each sport. For LWOPB, we take a look at the 10 events that drew headlines this past year, bringing drama, excitement, or intrigue to the NBA.
This article takes a look at the circumstances surrounding Blake Griffin’s physical altercation with equipment manager Matias Testi, and the suspension that followed as a result.
NBA Most Captivating Storylines of 2016: Blake Griffin Suspended for Assaulting Equipment Manager
On January 23, 2016, Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin fractured his hand following an altercation with a member of the Clippers’ equipment staff, Matias Testi. The Clippers were in Toronto to play the Raptors at the time. Griffin reportedly punched Testi multiple times in the face, both inside and outside the restaurant where the pair were dining with Clippers’ center DeAndre Jordan and assistant athletic trainer Joe Resendez.
What Prompted the Altercation?
Although the cause of the altercation between Griffin and Testi has never been definitively confirmed, a number of sources reported that the pair had been arguing, and that Testi had been teasing Griffin that the Clippers were better off without him. Comments like that could have easily gotten under Griffin’s skin; the Clippers were 11-2 in his absence in the 4 weeks preceding the incident. Griffin had been out with a partially torn left quadricep muscle since the Clippers’ Christmas Day match up with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Alcohol may have also been a factor; Griffin is believed to have been drinking at the time.
As a result of the altercation, Griffin suffered a spiral fracture of the fourth metacarpal bone in his right hand. He underwent a relatively routine surgical procedure to repair the damage on January 26.
Griffin’s injury was a significant blow to the Clippers, who had been anticipating his return from his quadriceps tear in the beginning of February. The fracture kept Griffin sidelined an additional two months. In total, he missed 45 games in a season where the big three of Griffin, Jordan and Chris Paul were anticipated to take the Clippers well into the to the Western Conference Playoffs, if not beyond.
Griffin’s injury was also a significant blow to him personally. He had been averaging 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game before the incident in Toronto, and was poised to have the best season of his career. The altercation with Testi threw all of that away. Griffin also missed being selected to the All-Star Game in Toronto for the first time in his six-year career because of his notable absence from the court.
Within days of the incident, Griffin took to Twitter to apologize.
— Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin32) January 27, 2016
Griffin otherwise kept a very low profile in the months that followed, focusing on rehabilitation.
The NBA’s Response
Within 3 days of the incident, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Doc Rivers issued a joint statement strongly condemning Griffin’s behavior. It stated in part:
This conduct has no place in our organization and this incident does not represent who we are as a team. We are conducting a full investigation with assistance from the NBA. At the conclusion of the investigation, appropriate action will be taken.
Griffin’s teammates, for the most part, kept mum about the situation. Some, however, were reported to have expressed frustration with Griffin’s poor judgment and timing, feeling that he had “let the team down.”
By early February, the NBA and the Clippers had completed their investigation of the incident, and handed Griffin a four game suspension without pay. The Clippers docked the All-Star forward’s pay for an additional game because he broke his shooting hand.The suspension began once Griffin was cleared to play. In all, Griffin lost nearly $860,000 in salary.
As for Testi, he is no longer with the Clippers’ Organization.
Clippers assistant equipment manager Matias Testi no longer works with the team, a source has confirmed to the OCR. @TMZ_Sports was 1st.
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) July 27, 2016
To date, the Clippers have not officially stated whether Testi was fired or quit.
Isolated Incident or Cause for Concern?
The Toronto incident is not the first time Griffin has demonstrated questionable judgment in his interactions with others. Although he is not widely believed to have an anger issue or penchant for violence, he has attracted his fair share of attention for immature behavior and on-court antics and altercations.
For example, in April 2014, after fouling out of Game 1 of the first round of the 2014 Western Conference Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors, Griffin poured water on a Warriors fan seated courtside as he reacted to a JumboTron replay of his sixth foul.
Griffin, who was being heckled by the fan, claimed the incident to be an accident. The video, however, as well as Griffin’s impish grin, suggest otherwise.
Seven months later, in November, 2014, Griffin was accused of assaulting a man and taking his phone at a Las Vegas nightclub. According to TMZ-Sports, then 39-year-old Daniel Schuman claimed Griffin snatched his phone after becoming upset by camera flashes around him. Schuman also alleged that Griffin squeezed his hand and shoulder and slapped him in the face. Griffin was charged with misdemeanor battery, but the charge was later dropped. He had been facing up to 6 months in jail if convicted – a consequence that would have seriously compromised his value and credibility as an elite player.
A Year Later….
On September 23, 2016, prior to the start of the 2016-17 season, Griffin penned an additional apology to Clippers fans in The Players’ Tribune. It started out simply, and bluntly, with “I’ll just get it out of the way. Last season sucked.” Griffin went on to reflect on his time with the Clippers, apologize for the Toronto incident and share excitement about the new – now current – season. Griffin closed his mea culpa piece by stating he had reached a “pretty big realization” about who he is, and promised to show that to fans on the court.
To his credit, Griffin has started this season off hot, averaging 21 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 26 games. However, sidelined again in mid-December due to knee surgery, fans may need to wait until well into the new year to fully appreciate any personal changes Griffin has made since losing his cool and making headlines in Toronto.
LOS ANGELES, USA – DECEMBER 12: Blake Griffin (32) of LA Clippers is seen during NBA between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center in Los Angeles, USA on December 12, 2016. (Photo by Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)