Pistons' Blake Griffin answers a few questions at the press conference. Robin Buckson / The Detroit News
Auburn Hills — When Blake Griffin signed a five-year contract with the Clippers in July, it seemed to be a long-term commitment that would keep him in Los Angeles through the prime of his career.
In their pitch to keep Griffin, the Clippers made overtures to center him as the face of the franchise for years to come and gave him a contract for $173 million, a super-max deal that would make him one of the highest-paid players in the NBA.
Things change quickly.
Griffin was as surprised as anyone when he was traded Monday to the Pistons, along with Willie Reed and Brice Johnson in a blockbuster deal that created a buzz around the league.
Just that quickly, the summer courting turned into a winter fling.
The Clippers’ philosophy about their long-term relationship changed, which made it easier to dump Griffin, a five-time All-Star. The Pistons were only too happy to bring in Griffin, introducing him at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon at The Palace.
Even two days removed from the big split, Griffin was taken aback by how things went down, getting no warning before the split.
Though he didn’t have a no-trade clause in his hefty contract, Griffin’s is a cautionary tale — one that LeBron James called “unfortunate” on Tuesday — that teams can turn the tables and trade their stars who don’t have the security of a no-trade clause.
Griffin seemed jilted by the deal and voiced some of that.
“I want to play for an organization that wants me to play there — and clearly (Detroit) is an organization that wants me to play here,” Griffin said. “The stuff with the no-trade clause, it was something that was brought up, but not something we went about, obviously.
“This is where I want to be. This is the place that wants me and that’s the type of organization that I want to play for. I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a place that wasn’t working.”
Many times, when teams change courses on their star players, they give them the courtesy of letting them know that a potential trade is coming. Griffin, who was with the Clippers for nine seasons, wasn’t extended that courtesy.
He was blindsided.
“Shocked is a good way to put it — I didn’t know anything. I pretty much found out when everybody else found out,” Griffin said. “It just kind of took a second to realize that everything’s changing.”
Griffin initially just posted a graphic on Twitter showing that same shock and surprise. After that, he spoke with Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy, which helped to ease some of the shock and smooth things out. He immediately went into study mode, trying to find out as much as he could about the Pistons’ style of play and to figure out where he could fit in with his new teammates.
“I got a chance to talk to Stan on Monday night and once you start talking basketball, your mind switches to that mode,” Griffin said. “I went on Synergy (an on-demand basketball analytics site) that night and looked at some clips and familiarized myself with this team a little bit better.”
Pistons general manager Jeff Bower spoke in glowing terms of Griffin and the Pistons’ desire to make him their new centerpiece, joining Andre Drummond in a formidable frontcourt, in an attempt to get back to the playoffs.
It was a stark juxtaposition to Griffin’s exit from Los Angeles — more than that, it’s a reminder of the business aspect of professional sports.
Teams are only as their options — or their finances and long-term outlook. The Clippers got cold feet in the first year of the contract about staying with Griffin and acted accordingly; the Pistons were only too happy to oblige.
In his comments on social media following the trade, Griffin thanked the fans in Los Angeles and the support he received; noticeably absent were glowing remarks about the Clippers organization.
Griffin is ready to begin his Pistons career on Thursday, as all players in the deal have passed physicals.
“Some great young pieces. I got a chance to spend some time with Reggie (Jackson) this past summer. Great guy and great basketball player,” Griffin said. “Andre’s obviously well-deserved All-Star and a monster. I got the opportunity to play with DeAndre Jordan for many years and Andre is that. He’s bigger and more physical and I’m excited about that growth and hopefully to be able to help him.”
“I’ve been a fan of a lot of the guys on this team for a long time. There’s guys who you play against and say he can help us or someday I’d like to play with him. To get an opportunity to come to a team where there’s several guys like that is pretty awesome.”
With Pistons owner Tom Gores’ hefty financial commitment to Griffin, he’s likely found a home — maybe even for the long term.