Newly acquired forward talks about his performance and playing with his new teammates in Thursday's 104-102 win over the Grizzlies. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Auburn Hills — The Blake Griffin effect can be measured both externally and internally.
The external effect was immediate and obvious. Although Little Caesars Arena was far from filled for his debut Thursday, the energy in the building was palpable. And the TV ratings don’t lie. The game against the lowly Grizzlies drew the largest audience to a regular-season game (5.5 share) on Fox Sports Detroit since Nov. 19, 2008. It was also the most streamed game in Pistons history.
The internal effect, well, that’s going to take some time to sort out.
“He and I sat and talked this morning,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said Friday after a 90-minute practice. “We have to make sure we add in some things that he likes and that he’s comfortable with. He has some input into that, for sure.
“Look, you’ve got a guy like him, you need him to be productive. And for him to be productive, he has to be in situations where he’s comfortable. I certainly listened to him.”
Griffin produced 24 points and 10 rebounds in his Pistons debut, and the team was a plus-23 when he was on the floor. All of which is a straight testament to his brilliance because there were only four plays available to him, hurriedly put in at shoot-around Thursday morning, and the offense was a tangled mess most of the night.
“Looking at the film today, we didn’t execute our offense very well in terms of spacing, which was not a surprise at all,” Van Gundy said. “He played well because he’s a very good player.”
There was one impact of Griffin’s game immediately evident, however — his ability to draw fouls and get to the free throw line. He made 11 of 13 free throws. The Grizzlies shot 14 free throws as a team.
But Van Gundy didn’t want to hear about getting “superstar calls.”
“Actually, we looked at three clips today trying to make teaching points where guys were beating the hell out of him and he didn’t get the calls,” Van Gundy said. “He got to the line 13 times because he goes so hard all the time. He could have easily shot another six free throws.”
Van Gundy said Griffin, because he is so strong and mobile and attacks so ferociously, is hard to officiate.
“It goes both ways,” he said. “He attacks and he’ll get some calls, but they don’t call all of them. And also, a lot of times when he gets hit hard, he’s still able to put up a good shot.”
Van Gundy said he put in four or five more plays for Griffin and the offense on Friday and the two spent time in the video room going over things Griffin likes to do in certain situations.
“We talked about spacing, where do you want people when you have the ball,” Van Gundy said. “To be able to make plays, you have to keep people in their comfort zone.”
Before Griffin, the Pistons ran a motion-based offense through Andre Drummond. Griffin’s presence — his ability to create off the dribble for himself and his teammates, as well as his versatility on pick-and-roll and post-up plays — adds several new dimensions that weren’t previously available to the Pistons.
“Maybe we will run a little more post-up stuff,” Van Gundy said. “But I think the key for us is finding a balance between good ball movement and being able to go to Blake. We don’t want it where we are running past him in our movement and he’s not getting the ball with a chance to create.
“We also don’t want to come to a stop and just throw the ball into the post. We have to find that balance and that’ll take some time.”
It was frustrating at times Thursday for both Griffin and Van Gundy. There were situations in the game that called for a certain play or set that Griffin hadn’t been read into yet.
“We just have to keep adding a little bit day by day,” Van Gundy said. “You don’t want to give him too much but there were some things we didn’t have (available) to run for him that we wanted to have.”
So the Griffin playbook will be up to nine plays for the game Saturday against the Heat. Baby steps.
“It’s going to evolve over time and hopefully we get better little by little,” Van Gundy said. “And hopefully we will be smoother tomorrow than we were last night.”
And then, in a couple of weeks, after the All-Star break, the Pistons will go through another adjustment when point guard Reggie Jackson (ankle injury) gets back. It will be intriguing to see how Van Gundy adjusts the offense to facilitate another scorer who can create offense off the dribble and from the perimeter.
“We will definitely have some options at that point,” Van Gundy said.
Not an issue
With Griffin’s star power comes a higher profile for the team — more national attention, more celebrity attention and more potential distractions.
Van Gundy, having coached Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard, has already been through this and isn’t concerned in the least.
“Blake is used to it; he’s had that kind of attention for a long time, and Andre (Drummond) is used to it to some degree,” he said. “Anybody who has been at this level has been around it. I don’t think it will be an issue.
“As long as the people involved are level-headed and are about the game — which Blake is — I don’t think you have any problem with that.”
That Reggie Bullock has emerged as a productive wing player is not the least bit surprising to Griffin. The two played together with the Clippers and it was only bad health that kept Bullock out of the rotation.
“There are probably 60 guys in this league who you could put anywhere and they’d be good because they are so talented,” Van Gundy said. “Everybody else, it’s about opportunity, the system fitting your skills and your role.
“So, all these so-called surprise stories of guys coming out of nowhere and playing well? They really aren’t that surprising because we see it all the time.”
Since being inserted in the starting lineup (23 games), Bullock is averaging 12.2 points and shooting 55 percent from the floor and 50 percent from 3-point range.
“He really knows how to play the game,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t think he played well defensively (Thursday), not up to his capabilities. But offensively he really helps you function.”
Heat at Pistons
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Saturday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Outlook: The Pistons won the first two games of their six-game home stand and have split the two meetings against the Heat this season...Goran Dragic, who was chosen as a replacement for the All-Star Game, averages 17 points and 4.8 assists for Miami (29-22).