'This season is the foundation': Blake Griffin believes in Pistons, himself
Auburn Hills — In the last few weeks of the season, the Pistons’ fortunes changed from making the playoffs and competing for the sixth or seventh seed to barely squeaking into the postseason with a win in the last game of the regular season.
The big change was Blake Griffin’s left knee.
It changed the course of the Pistons’ regular season and kept him out of four of the final seven games, plus the first two of the four playoff games. The path forward isn’t clear yet, but the knee will need some medical attention.
“I’ll address that today and tomorrow and have a game plan going from there. It will be something, yes,” Griffin said Tuesday at the team's practice facility. “I don’t think it’ll interfere with any offseason workout plans that I have. We’ll figure that out.”
Griffin played in 75 games this season — his most since 2013-14 — and said he took great pride in having the best season of his career. Despite several injuries in recent years, Griffin showed that he could still play at a high level and remain relatively healthy.
He said the initial knee issues began March 28 against the Orlando Magic, a 17-point win for the Pistons. Griffin missed the next game against Portland and the Pistons won their second straight and looked primed to get the No. 6 seed, but losing four straight put a pin in those hopes. They had to win the last two just to squeeze in as the eighth seed, with a tough matchup against the top-seeded Bucks, resulting in a four-game sweep.
Obviously, there will be changes to the roster in the offseason, with four expiring contracts and some other players on options or soon-to-be-expiring deals. Griffin said he’ll wait to see what the front office, led by senior adviser Ed Stefanski, plans to do, but he said he won’t meddle with his own thoughts unless he’s consulted.
“I’m not here to make decisions; it’s the front office. Ed and all those guys do a really good job, in the short time I’ve known them,” Griffin said. “They have plans and an idea and a direction. It might not happen overnight because of the (financial) situation. They have a great grasp on that.
“If they ask my opinion, I’ll, of course, give my honest opinion. I’ve never been the type of player to go in and make demands, just because sometimes as players and coaches, we’re all about winning right now, which is very important but not at the expense of the next year or however that may be.”
When Pistons owner Tom Gores traded for Griffin, the understanding was the Pistons’ path forward was built around Griffin and the three years he now has remaining, beginning next season. With another big contract in Andre Drummond’s deal, there isn’t much wiggle room to acquire elite-level players, but the front office will look to make subtle deals to augment the roster.
“They have a good grasp on that. there is a plan, from Day 1,” Griffin said. “They’ve set a plan in motion and sometimes you have to tweak and change things, but I fully trust their leadership and their direction.”
Although they had a quick playoff exit, Griffin found some positives to take away from the season, both as a team and individually.
“You walk away, not necessarily happy, but proud of this team and everything,” he said. “For several years, I heard a lot of negativity and didn’t necessarily believe it or buy into it, but I don’t care what you do, or who you are or how resilient you are as a person, it wears on you and affects you.
“This year has helped me quiet that down for myself. I’ve always believed in myself but it’s always good to put together a season or a stretch of what you’ve been working on or things you’ve been told you couldn’t do for a long time. This season is the foundation.”
His bounce-back year included some impressive numbers: a career-best 24.5 points, along with 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists and what could be his fifth All-NBA selection and first since 2014-15.
He’s playing the best basketball of his career and there’s no indication that he has plans of going anywhere else. Gores was asked Monday whether he though Griffin was frustrated with the season and might request a trade:
“No. I don’t see that at all. Blake and I know each other pretty well. Even though he had the sore knee, the man just wanted to play,” Gores said. “He believes in this team and believes in this city. I haven’t sense that at all. He has been a trooper, everything for us as a leader. He knows we’re committed to winning.”