Blake Griffin motivated and eager to return to court with new-look young Pistons
When the Detroit Pistons open the regular season later this month, Blake Griffin will have spent nearly a full calendar year between games.
He’s eager to get back on the pitch, even with a young rebuilding team that shouldn’t win many games, and he’s motivated to return to his All-Star level from two years ago.
“It’s been a long year of gossip,” Griffin said Tuesday during a Zoom media call. “I’ve been through this so many times. You miss a year, have a slack year, or you face injuries and you hear it all. I had a lot of time to think and a lot of time to motivate myself.
Griffin was limited to 18 games in 2019-20, when knee issues resulted in career low points (15.5), rebounds (4.7) and field goal percentage (35%). His season ended on December 28. In February, he underwent his second knee surgery in nine months.
Now it looks like he’s ready for his usual workload.
“I had lunch with Blake a few weeks ago and he didn’t want to hear about a minute restriction; we put it off, ”said coach Dwane Casey. “He worked his ass in LA. We’re a different team to him. Fortunately, and sadly, this pandemic has given her a long period of time to regain her health and no one has worked harder on her body. It is lighter. He looks really good.
The Pistons began training camp Tuesday with a small group of players and coaches. They hope to start full team training on Sunday.
Griffin, 31, said he expected many changes to the roster. He is one of four players (along with Derrick Rose, Svi Mykhailiuk and Sekou Doumbouya) returning from last season. New group includes rookies Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey and Saben Lee and free agents Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Jahlil Okafor and Josh Jackson.
“I love the parts that we have,” Griffin said. “I think we have a lot of guys who are, mostly, great guys, and also guys who compete, play hard and work hard. “
Griffin hooked up with one of the rookies, bringing Bey to Southern California to train with him.
“Saddiq has one of the most complete games I’ve seen, especially for a rookie,” Griffin said. “One of my favorite things about him is his thirst to improve and play basketball. That’s all the kid wants to talk about, that’s all he’s interested in. He posed the right guy. I’m glad I got to spend some time with him because it’s so encouraging to know that there are like-minded guys on the team.
“The rest of the recruits, I saw bands on them. I like their attitude, their approach. Each of them brings something a little different. It will be great for Killian to learn from Derrick and have this role model. Isaiah and Saben too, great guys and hard workers. I will take these attributes in a rookie any day.
Griffin will likely remain a business candidate given the Pistons’ leadership, age, and contract (two years left at $ 76 million). Pistons have reportedly contacted Washington about potential trade for John Wall, but discussions were unsuccessful.
“I’ve been doing this for too long for (the business talks) to bother me,” Griffin said. “I have a great relationship with the front office, and we have an open line of communication.”
He added: “If developing the youngsters is the goal this season, then I’ll do whatever they ask of me. I will spend more time with the young people. I’ll try to teach more, listen to more, whatever. I am a Piston and whatever they decide is the common goal.
Reggie Jackson’s injuries and the team’s lack of depth in playmaking have pushed Griffin to take more of a ball-handling role over the past two years. Hayes will take some of the load off.
“My program isn’t to score as many points or shoot as many baskets as possible,” Griffin said. “(It’s) to be a complete player, a leader. When asked to score, score. When you are asked to do something else, do it.