Blake Griffin Begins 4-Game Suspension, Medically Cleared for Activities

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2016

December 25, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) moves the ball against Los Angeles Lakers forward Nick Young (0) during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Christmas at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin has been cleared to resume basketball activities and will begin serving his four-game suspension Sunday against the Denver Nuggets, the team announced

Griffin, 27, will be eligible to return for April 3's game against the Washington Wizards. He has missed the team's last 41 contests with a torn left quad and right hand fracture. The hand fracture was suffered during a January fight with a team employee in Toronto, which resulted in the suspension.

"It's something that I feel awful about, something that I haven't had to deal with ever before in life and it's been tough," Griffin said, per Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times. "But now that the NBA has done their due diligence and the Clippers and I have my punishment, I'm looking forward to just moving on and moving past this and getting back on the court with our teammates."

Griffin last played in a Christmas Day win over the Los Angeles Lakers. He was averaging 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game, numbers that would have put him in historic company over the course of a full season. The Clippers outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor compared to 2.6 points when he was on the bench, per Basketball-Reference.

However, those facts haven't altered the opinions of those who wondered if the Clippers are better without Griffin. His absence has made the awkwardness of the Griffin-DeAndre Jordan pairing all the more obvious, as Chris Paul has thrived in the increased space.

The Clippers saw a massive spike in scoring during January and February before things fell off a cliff in an ugly March. While the chorus of Griffin detractors has quieted during L.A.'s 5-7 start to the month, the problems have been much more defensive than offensive. Opponents are scoring a season-high 107.5 points per 100 possessions against the Clippers in March. Scoring has taken a dip as well, but it's only slightly down from the Clippers' rate when Griffin was on the floor.

The trade rumors around Griffin may have died, but the scrutiny won't. These Clippers are nowhere near competing with the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs atop the Western Conference. Griffin's irresponsible decision in Toronto is part of the reason.

At best, the Clips will enter the playoffs with six games for their core to get back into a rhythm. That's assuming Griffin can play in back-to-backs (the Clippers have two), and neither Paul nor Jordan needs any rest. The first round will likely offer a depleted Memphis Grizzlies team for the Clippers to feast on, but we're barreling toward another wasted year of this core's prime. 

Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.

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