Auburn Hills — In Wednesday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, Blake Griffin sat on the Pistons’ bench in a suit, missing his fourth straight game.
His arrival in late January was projected to be the swing the Pistons needed to make it to the playoffs; instead, he wasn’t in the game in which they were eliminated from playoff contention, with four games left in the season.
Griffin has missed past week after sustaining a bone bruise on his right ankle against the Lakers on March 26. He was expected to be reevaluated this week, but with the regular season coming to a close, he might take it easy for the final week.
“Whether we see him again, I have no idea,” coach Stan Van Gundy said after Thursday’s practice. “It’s certainly no better than 50/50.”
That seems logical, considering there’s not much reason to push Griffin to play in the final couple games, though Van Gundy said Wednesday that he wasn’t in favor of shutting down players if they’re healthy. Griffin still hasn’t been cleared to return to game action, but he’s been doing some work on the side to stay in good shape.
That’s included some work on the anti-gravity treadmill, the rowing machine and the stationary bike, all of which Griffin has approached with vigor, according to Van Gundy.
“He works. It’s not a problem there,” Van Gundy said. “He’s definitely a worker.”
If he doesn’t play in the final four games, it likely would mean more playing time for second-year forward Henry Ellenson, who has slid into the role as backup with Griffin out. Ellenson has increased his workload to 15 minutes per game, with six points and 3.3 rebounds in the last four games.
Much like last season, when Ellenson got a boost in minutes after the Pistons were eliminated, there will be an opportunity to see him play more, but not necessarily at power forward. Van Gundy has said he’d like to get Ellenson more time as a backup center to Andre Drummond.
“I’m not so sure (center) is not his position in today’s game. He does need to be able to play both positions,” Van Gundy said. “He practices there, so he’s not uncomfortable playing there.
“He’s developed pretty well. He’s come on and gotten better. Over this four-game stretch, he’s played pretty well. I’d like him to shoot the ball better, but he’s played pretty well.”
Following their elimination with Wednesday’s loss, the Pistons were disappointed with the way the season has turned, with only 37 wins and missing Reggie Jackson for 37 games because of his severe ankle sprain.
The postgame locker room was solemn, but the players seemed to bounce back with energy in practice on Thursday.
“Even though we knew the chances were slim, our guys had kept fighting. There was a real disappointment in last night,” Van Gundy said. “It’s been a difficult year for a lot of reasons and these guys, to their credit, have stayed together and kept fighting. It was a blow. It certainly wasn’t a happy locker room — nor should it have been.
“I expect that they’ll come out and play these next four games hard too and continue to fight.”
Though there’s no postseason to play for, there is the goal of a 41-41 finish and getting back to .500 after a miserable stretch with Jackson out.
PISTONS VS. MAVERICKS
Tip-off: 7 Friday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Outlook: The Mavs (24-55) have lost nine of their last 11 games and Dirk Nowitzki (ankle surgery) and guard J.J. Barea (oblique strain) are out for the remainder of the season,. Blake Griffin (ankle bruise) could miss his fifth straight game for the Pistons (37-41).