Griffin stands tall: ‘I’ve just got to be better. That’s the bottom line.’

Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin again demonstrated the value of his leadership skills as the Pistons are sitting amid a 5-game losing streak
Gary Dineen (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

DETROIT – Your knee hurts, you see an orthopedist. Something wrong with your car, you take it to a mechanic. Need a diagnosis on the state of the Pistons locker room, ask Blake Griffin.

That’s the case not only because of his ability to sense the collective spirit, but also for the clarity with which he can communicate it.

“There needs to be a sense of urgency, for sure,” Griffin said after Thursday’s practice with the Pistons sitting on a 4-10 record. “I’ve seen teams start out worse. I’ve seen teams start out the same and finish much better, but it’s on us whether we want to accept what it is right now or change it – and our plan is to change it.”

Leadership is a fraught endeavor. To point out a team’s faults and throw down challenges for its future is risky business lest it set apart the speaker from the collective ills. When Griffin met with reporters on Thursday, the first thing he did – to a question that suggested some of his struggles had to do with the impact of minutes restrictions on him as he returns from injury – was offer a critical self-assessment.

“I’ve just got to be better. That’s the bottom line,” he said. “I can’t play the way I’ve played the last two games and expect us to win. I know people make more of a deal about numbers than I do, but it’s all encompassing – doing everything or not doing some of the things that I’m doing that’ll help us win. I fully take these last two. I’ve just got to be better.”

The Pistons have lost five straight games and are 0-3 in Griffin’s outings since he missed the first 10 games and 11 of the first 12 this season. He’s averaging 18 points but shooting 35 percent overall and 19 percent from the 3-point line while committing four turnovers a game.

“I’m just missing shots,” he said, dispelling concerns that Griffin is still subpar physically coming off of spring knee surgery that spilled over into knee and hamstring soreness coming out of training camp. “It’s not like my body can’t do what I’m trying to do. I’m just messing up – mental errors.”

The injuries haven’t stopped with Griffin, of course. Reggie Jackson played two uncharacteristic games before a back injury that continues to idle him was discovered. Derrick Rose has missed five games. Tony Snell is currently out with a hip injury and remains day to day. Others – Tim Frazier, Markieff Morris, Khyri Thomas – have been or remain injured.

Griffin concedes the lineup disruptions have been challenging but suggests that Pistons issues are more systemic at this point.

“It’s a little disruptive, but an identity for a team – you can always have the identity of playing hard, communicating, things that we’re not doing. Those should be a baseline identity to me and we haven’t achieved that yet, so how are we supposed to know what our identity is if we haven’t achieved the things that you just have to fundamentally have as a team.”

And, if you’re wondering, yeah, Griffin raised those issues internally before he shared them publicly. He wasn’t alone.

“That’s what we’re working on. We spoke about it today in film. Derrick spoke, I spoke, Markieff spoke, Coach spoke. We addressed those things, so we’ll get it right. But you have to have that first level before you go to any other type of identity.”

To paraphrase a time-honored axiom, a team can’t begin to fix its issues without first acknowledging they exist. There are many reasons the Pistons are fortunate to have Blake Griffin wearing their uniform. Being that guy is pretty high on that list.

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