‘Blake played his heart out’ – Griffin sends Pistons off with impassioned speech

Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin’s knee injury late in the season likely cost the Pistons a playoff seed or two in 2018-19.
Brian Sevald/NBAE/Getty Images

DETROIT – Pistons owner Tom Gores was asked minutes after the Pistons season ended in a first-round sweep if he sensed All-Star Blake Griffin was frustrated by his plight.

“I don’t see that at all,” Gores said. “Blake and I know each other pretty well. All I know is that even though he had the sore knee and everything, the man just wanted to play. He believes in this team and he really believes in this city. He has been a trouper, everything for us as a leader. He knows we’re committed to him.”

The questioner couldn’t have known it, but at the same time Gores was speaking Griffin was in the locker room pulling his teammates together.

“He just gave a passionate speech in the locker room about how proud he was to play with those guys,” Dwane Casey said about 30 minutes later, “and the future that he sees with the young players coming through.”

Griffin opened up a little bit more about the ordeal he’d endured in trying to play through a painful left knee injury that dogged him late in the season, eventually forcing him to miss four games – including the playoff-clinching win over New York in the regular-season finale – plus the first two games of the playoffs. But he only gave out those details in the course of talking about what made the season enjoyable for him.

“I had to pass a bunch of benchmarks to convince our training staff that I could come back and play,” he said. “One of them was to participate in full-contact one on one, be able to do everything I needed to, and they asked Jon Leuer to come in early on Thursday. Thursday was a film day. They asked Jon to come in early and he did. We played two on two for about 20, 30 minutes. The next two games, Jon was inactive. A guy eight years in the league and been on some good teams and is a good player. Did that and didn’t bat an eye. Things like that I appreciate.”

Griffin also cited a quality of the Pistons that he’d mentioned at other points of the season.

“My message to them was that we’ve got a locker room full of guys this year who are genuinely happy for each other’s success and have shown that over and over,” he said. “There’s examples of that throughout the season.”

Griffin, who played with a heavy brace on his leg for the past two games, said he doesn’t anticipate that the injury will affect his off-season workout plans at all.

“I don’t anticipate missing any time working out other than just my normal time I take off,” he said. “It’ll be a long off-season again, like last off-season, which is a good thing for me because I’ll be able to get in the gym and work and come back and be ready.”

Griffin fouled out of Game 4 with 7:06 to play, receiving a standing ovation as he departed. Chants of “M-V-P, M-V-P” echoed throughout another Little Caesars Arena sellout crowd.

“Blake played his heart out with basically one leg and he gave everything he could to our team,” Casey said. “He fought a lot of pain, swelling just so he could support his teammates. I think we were in sixth place when he started experiencing the pain and swelling but he kept with it. Kept playing until he couldn’t play any more. He gave everything he could to our team. We owe him a lot as far as what he gives us, the leadership he gave to the young players.”

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