blake griffin

Originally published in SLAM 176

Any NBA defender who ventures into the paint from time to time finds himself asking the question: “Do I really want to do this?” It’s not a conscious act—there’s no time for that as someone cuts to the rim—but in the split second available, the question needs to be asked. No time to figure out inside the circle or out, just a quick affirmation or denial. To step in, or not to step in.

It makes sense that the best defenders are the ones who answer in the affirmative most often—and even if they wind up on the wrong side of the poster, at least they can head into the locker room after every game knowing they gave it their all. No easy buckets. Ironically, though, the worst defenders also answer in the affirmative often as, puppy-like, they rush to welcome whoever it is coming on to their turf.

Here’s the thing: If you do step in, even if you get dunked on, at least you tried. The effort is what counts, and giving up an extra point (unless it’s Dwight Howard), shouldn’t matter. But here’s the other thing: If it’s Blake Griffin coming down the lane, don’t do it. Ever. Kris Humphries had to learn the hard way.

Russ Bengtson