After a crash course, Blake Griffin set to make Pistons debut vs. Memphis

Blake Griffin will be in the starting lineup tonight when the Pistons host the Memphis Grizzlies
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – Memphis won’t get the full Blake Griffin experience tonight, but the Grizzlies can probably expect a lot of one thing with him.

Stay tuned for what that might be. Griffin is probably the NBA’s most versatile big man offensively, capable of being used in post-ups, isolations and any variety of pick-and-roll combinations as the ballhandler or the screener.

But he’s yet to go through a Pistons practice, so Stan Van Gundy had to confine new wrinkles to his offense to Thursday’s morning shootaround.

“I’ve got to make sure I don’t try to do too much, too soon,” Van Gundy said. “I probably did a little too much today, but it’s pretty basic stuff. It’s basic enough that I think our guys out there can help direct him through it. We only put in one new thing specifically for him today, but that’ll be the crux of what we try to do (in practice) tomorrow.”

Griffin, acquired late Monday from the Los Angeles Clippers, will start alongside Andre Drummond, Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and Ish Smith. That’s the same lineup – aside from Griffin at power forward for Anthony Tolliver – that’s coming off a 125-114 win over Cleveland while Griffin was en route from Los Angeles.

That win snapped an eight-game losing streak and makes the Pistons 4-12 since Reggie Jackson suffered a grade 3 ankle sprain in a win over Indiana on Dec. 26. The Pistons, 23-26, are 1½ games behind Philadelphia – which holds the tiebreaker with a 3-0 season series lead – for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. They’ll probably need to go about 20-13 over the final 33 games to have a shot at the postseason.

So Griffin joins them just in time, but the schedule doesn’t do the Pistons any favors. They play every other day for the next 12 days leading to a back to back. Over 15 days leading to the All-Star break, the Pistons play eight games. Coming out of the All-Star break on Feb. 23, they’re hopeful of having Jackson back in uniform.

“These next eight are important to us,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve got to hang in there right now.”