Casey: Griffin’s minutes monitored but no plans to give him nights off

Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin says he set a bad precedent by picking up early-season technical fouls and wants to lead the charge to reverse the trend.
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – Dwane Casey will monitor Blake Griffin’s minutes. But he won’t cower to them.

Griffin has averaged nearly 38 minutes over the first three games, skewed somewhat by Tuesday’s 44 minutes in the 133-132 overtime win over Philadelphia. That’s too many, but Casey is comfortable with the 34-plus minutes Griffin logged in wins over Brooklyn and Chicago.

And he has no plans to sprinkle in games off for Griffin nor has the subject been broached with him by the medical team that urged caution with Griffin and Reggie Jackson in preseason.

“It depends on his body,” Casey said. “I don’t want to have a concrete system. Blake’s healthy. I’d really much rather go on the side of monitoring his minutes more so than not him playing in back to backs. We’re in a situation where every game is important.”

Casey could be forgiven if he’d like to play Griffin every possible second given the results so far. In three games, the Pistons have outscored their three opponents by 29 points in his 113 minutes and been outscored by 23 in the 36 minutes he’s sat. With Griffin on the court, the Pistons have a very strong offensive rating of 127.2; when Griffin sits, that plummets to a paltry 88.9.

Griffin’s averaging 36.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists while shooting 53 percent overall and 61 percent on a career-high 6.0 3-point attempts per game.

Perhaps the most noteworthy statistic – given the fact that the ball goes through Griffin on such a high percentage of Pistons possessions – is that he’s committed only two turnovers. His usage rate is 32.4 percent and his turnover rate a mere 2.2 percent. For comparison’s sake, some guy named LeBron James is at 29.2 and 13.8 in those categories – more than six times the rate of turnovers on fewer possessions ending in his hands.

“That’s huge,” Casey said of Griffin’s nearly flawless caretaking. “Usually at this time of year, turnovers are huge because we’re trying to play faster, play up and down, and usually that ball is going all over. That’s what I was concerned about more than anything.”

Philadelphia threw a wide variety of defenders at Griffin during his 50-game tour de force, nobody having any particular success. In the second half, Casey amplified Griffin’s playmaking by putting the ball in his hands to operate in pick and rolls. He effectively became their point guard.

“I knew Blake was going to be a point forward for us,” Casey said. “He’s one of our best facilitators. I didn’t know it was going to be in the form of pick and rolls. I thought it was going to be more in the form of (dribble handoffs) and elbow catches and playing out of the elbow. But he’s done a heck of a job running pick and rolls, getting downhill. Teams have to make a decision and he’s a very willing passer.”

Griffin’s effectiveness in just about everything he’s doing – playing in the post, initiating pick and rolls, shooting 3-pointers off the catch, taking his defender off the dribble – opens up Casey’s playbook exponentially. No wonder he has to grit his teeth every time he knows it’s time to give him a rest.

“We’ve been keeping him around 34, 33 minutes, somewhere in there, which is an optimum amount of time for him,” Casey said. “Overtime game, I think you have to go all bets are off. But Blake’s in great physical condition and he can handle the minutes.”

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