Auburn Hills — For the next few days, it’s going to be like the first week at a new school for Blake Griffin, as he slowly gets accustomed to things.
Or maybe it’s like playing pickup basketball at the gym, not knowing how any of his teammates play, what their tendencies are, or where things are at the Pistons practice facility and Little Caesars Arena.
Griffin, along with Willie Reed and Brice Johnson, are learning the ropes around the Detroit area and getting accustomed to their new teammates and surroundings slowly. They learned a lot about each other in their debut on Thursday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The trio, whom the Pistons acquired in the trade with the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, will be woven into the playing rotation. Griffin, the centerpiece, was in the starting lineup, joining Ish Smith, Reggie Bullock, Stanley Johnson and Andre Drummond.
It’s also a whirlwind for coach Stan Van Gundy, as he tries to figure out the best ways to get Griffin up to speed on the Pistons’ playbook and style. Griffin only had Thursday morning’s shootaround — not even a full practice — to get acclimated.
That’s not enough time, but the quick turnaround will have to work for now.
“(It was) a lot longer than we would normally (shoot around), but just trying to get somewhat organized both offensively and defensively,” Van Gundy said Thursday morning. “I’m trying to think if I’ve ever done this with a guy just on a walk-through, a guy who’s going to start; they usually have one practice. I think we’ve got enough (installed) for him to play.”
Griffin has the versatility to play all over the court, but given the short time span between the trade and his first game, the coaching staff will have to take things a little slowly to ensure that everyone is comfortable and that the new players aren’t overloaded.
The schedule doesn’t do the Pistons any favors, either. They have games on alternating days, including Saturday against the Heat and Monday versus the Trail Blazers, so there’s not much practice time to try to install more and try to build chemistry between Griffin and his new teammates.
It’ll be a long process, but the first step is getting through a couple games, seeing how the mix works and adjusting accordingly.
“I don’t worry so much about the learning curve; he’s a smart guy. What it comes down to is you can only put so much in in an hour and 15 minutes (of shootaround),” Van Gundy said. “He can pick up a lot, but (in a short time) there’s only so much you can do. We don’t have a lot in (the offense yet). There’s certain special situation we’re not ready for with him — so be it. You can’t have it all in an hour and 15 minutes.”
Griffin got a rousing welcome from the Little Caesars Arena crowd, as the scoreboard showed clips from Wednesday’s introductory press conference. Griffin was introduced first, to a roar from the crowd and a special introduction from arena announcer Mason: “Time to put your hands together for the new Piston to see — No. 23, Blake Griffin.”
Reggie Jackson is on course to begin basketball activities in the next week or two as he nears a return from his ankle injury and potentially could be back in the lineup by the end of the month.
The target date was the end of February, but with a matchup against the Boston Celtics on Feb. 23, that could be a new goal. Jackson was moving around more freely, since ditching his walking boot last week. He’s been putting up shots, but hasn’t started running or jumping yet.