Chauncey Billups called him too nice.
Charles Barkley said he wasn't tough.
Matt Barnes got tossed from a game against the Thunder earlier this season for sticking up for him — and then got fined for the manner in which he announced he's tired of fighting his teammate's fights.
Everyone these days has an opinion on Blake Griffin.
The former OU and OCS star leads his Los Angeles Clippers into Chesapeake Energy Arena to face the Thunder on Sunday playing the best ball of his career. He's averaging 28.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.2 steals in the New Year.
But basketball purists want more.
They want him to hit back.
They want Griffin to respond to overly physical play by retaliating not with poise and poster dunks, but perhaps with message-sending punches.
“You've got to draw a line in the sand,” said TNT analyst and Basketball Hall of Famer Barkley early this season, in one of his many passionate monologues on the matter. “Say, ‘Hey, listen, I'm going to start hitting y'all back.'
“The toughest guy on your team can't be 5-3,” Barkley continued, jokingly referring to 6-foot Clippers point guard Chris Paul. “You got to stop these guys from picking on you.”
This season alone, Griffin has gotten into altercations with Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, Warriors Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green, Indiana's David West and Miami's Mario Chalmers, among others.
Most times, Griffin is on the receiving end of the punishment.
Rarely does he dish it back.
Billups, a former teammate of Griffin's on the Clippers, became one of many to express his desire to see Griffin retaliate.
“I don't agree that Blake Griffin is soft,” Billups said while appearing on “First Take” last June. “But what I will say about Blake is that he's maybe too nice of a guy. Because there's been times in games where people take shots at Blake and I tell him if that's me, you're going to have to take this two- or three-game suspension, and I'm going to punish somebody.
“That's just how I'm built. Blake is not really built like that. He's … too soft of a guy inside for him to be like, ‘All right, I'm just going to hurt somebody.' He just won't do it. I wish he would, and I think that people would look at him a lot different if he did that. But he's just not that kind of person.”
Griffin explains that the restraint he shows stems from an early lesson his father, Tommy Griffin, taught him.
“I've experienced things like that almost since high school,” Griffin said. “As a bigger guy, you kind of get fouled a lot, fouled harder. It's something my dad always taught me and told me. Just to respond with how you play because you don't want to put your team in a bad situation by getting kicked out of a game or anything like that.”
That's what Griffin remembers thinking way back in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament, when a player from Morgan State flipped him over his back and sent Griffin crashing hard to the court.
Once again, Griffin got up and walked away.
“That was a situation where I really didn't want to do anything because obviously the tournament means everything,” Griffin said. “So nothing anybody could have done at that point (was going to matter). I was not going to put myself or my team in that situation.”
Griffin conceded that the roughhousing can be frustrating at times. But he said he has a pretty good read on when opponents might be crossing the line.
“There's moments when you're definitely close to snapping. But I haven't gotten to that point yet,” he said. “When I feel like someone's trying to hurt me, physically hurt me, that's the point where you have to stand up for yourself.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers voiced appreciation for how Griffin handles himself.
“To me, that's the toughest guy you can be,” Rivers said. “Gandhi and Martin Luther King, those guys were tough. They took the hits and kept preaching. I think that's Blake. He knows he's athletic. The bigger guys can't match his athleticism so they're going to try to use their muscle. And he can't let it get to him, and he hasn't for the most part. He plays through it.”
Said Paul: “At the end of the day, he knows we want to win games.”
Griffin also knows the NBA is different today than it was when players like Barkley played. So while he hears the suggestions of Barkley and others, Griffin chooses to handle each situation as he sees fit.
“You could punch somebody in the face and they'd just get a technical and you'd just keep on playing,” Griffin said of the old NBA. “I completely understand what they're saying, and I appreciate the words of advice. But it's one of those things where I'm trying to deal with it on my own terms.”