Blake Griffin has lived in the playoffs, first with the Clippers and then with the Pistons. What he wants now is a shot at a ring, and a chance at meaningful minutes to earn it.
The star-studded Nets, who signed Griffin this week, can offer both — if he can seize them.
“Every year previously with Detroit, our goal was to get to the playoffs; we did that two years ago, and that’s great. But my main focus now was to play and contend for a championship,” said Griffin, who will sit out Thursday against the Celtics to ramp up because he has not played since Feb. 12.
“[The Nets] obviously expressed interest, [and the] interest was mutual. [I] felt like they had a need for another big, another guy to facilitate, fill these gaps they have. Anytime you have these type of players, you need guys around them to relieve that pressure. Then for me it’s about playing meaningful basketball, playing in the playoffs and contending for a championship. Those were my main reasons.”
Those type of players included not just Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, but also DeAndre Jordan, his longtime Clippers teammate, and Bruce Brown, with whom he played in Detroit the past two seasons.
“I talked to KD the most,” Griffin said. “But I’ve known James, KD, Kyrie, obviously DeAndre for a long time, so this was a familiar team for me.”
After he was bought out by the Pistons, Griffin was recruited by the Nets’ veteran leaders. He picked Brooklyn over three other suitors.
“We’ve had talks,” Jordan admitted of his ex-Lob City partner. “But obviously he was in a situation in Detroit where things were going in a different direction. We obviously didn’t want anybody else to get him. We felt he could help us, and I’m excited that he wanted to come join the Brooklyn Nets.
“He can do so many things. He can help us rebound, we can switch a lot more 1-through-5 with him in the game. He’s a great shooter, he’s improved his shooting, he’s a great playmaker. Whatever, when he’s in the game, … we need him to do, he’s going to be able to do. And obviously I have a chemistry with Blake on the court, so maybe we’ll see some minutes together.”
Granted, knee troubles have robbed Griffin of the jaw-dropping vertical from his Lob City days. After having more than 1,000 dunks with the Clippers, he had just 55 in two-plus seasons in Detroit, none this season.
Griffin, who is averaging 12.3 points, 5.3 boards and 3.9 assists, will be asked to do less with the Nets, but also will be afforded opportunities to be more efficient as a playmaker in the short-roll — and do it on a team-friendly veteran’s minimum.
Griffin ranks in the 90th percentile this season as the pick-and-roll ballhandler when including passes. Coach Steve Nash envisions him as a small-ball five, backing up Jordan — or occasionally playing with him.
“He’s had a history of knee issues, where he used to be a player who lived above the rim,” Nash said. “He’s adapted and become a guy that handles the ball very well, he passes very well, he’s making 3s. He’s adapted and changed his game.“It’s a tribute to the skill and intelligence that he has as a basketball player that, when you think of Blake Griffin in the first part of his career, you think of a high-wire act. Now, he’s still able to be very productive doing other things.”
Marcus Smart (calf) is expected back Thursday.