by Nima Zarrabi / @NZbeFree
Blake Griffin is no stranger to violence. For a couple years now, dude has been bending NBA rims and bruising the chests of opponents with the rocks in his shoulders. He has also been known to fly into the stands with reckless abandon and he may have hit new levels in that realm last night.
With nine minutes remaining in the third quarter of Game 2 of the Clips’ first-round matchup against the Memphis Grizzles, Griffin caught a chest pass from Chauncey Billups at full speed as he raced near the half court line. While slashing toward the bucket, Griffin was tangled up with Tony Allen and then shoved by center Marc Gasol into the baseline of sitting photographers. Griffin literally torpedoed into NBA Entertainment cameraman Michael Winik and somehow got twisted up with his high speed Phantom Camera, rising to his feet quickly with the handle of the camera caught up in his fingers, gripping it ferociously.
NBA Entertainment Camera technician Andrew Pidcock was directly behind Winik and was horrified when he saw the camera dangling from Griffin’s fingers, so he immediately rose up to his feet to secure the precious equipment, grabbing the slow motion camera from Blake in a freaked out, protective manner. It made for a bit of a funny scene afterward, as Blake made sure Winik was OK before releasing his tight grip. “I think he was very disoriented as he stood up and didn’t really know what he was doing,” Pidcock told me after the game in the press room. “He was really nice about making sure we were OK.”
The camera survived but the lens was clearly bent and will need repair. Winik seemed to have hit his head but Pidcock said he was going to be fine, which is important news since he has shot every NBA Finals since 1979. Winik is considered one of the best sports cinematographers in the world, and he hadn’t been caught up in a collision like that since a wet Patrick Ewing crashed into him many years ago.
I asked Griffin in the post-game presser if he saw the terror in Pidcock’s eyes as he frantically tried to attempt the camera exchange after the pileup. “Wait, he was tearing up?” No, terror—thank you Staples Center PR for translating. “I didn’t see that, but I did check on him afterward and he said he was OK, but it seemed like his camera was in a couple pieces. The cord got caught in my finger, so that’s why I was holding it when I got up.”
Pidcock said the scene made for a good photograph between he and Griffin, laughing off the experience and bent lens as he packed up his gear for his next game which will be in Denver. “Nothing a little repair can’t fix,” he said with a smile.