In Griffin, SVG sees the Pistons landing ‘one of the great talents in this league’

Blake Griffin told Stan Van Gundy he was looking forward to the challenge of helping the Pistons make a run in the Eastern Conference.
Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – No, the eight-game losing streak didn’t prompt Stan Van Gundy to jump at the chance to get Blake Griffin. He would have done it last year or the year before that or on the day Tom Gores hired him in May 2014.

“If we had won 10 in a row and Blake Griffin were available, we would’ve done the same thing,” he said.

Getting Blake Griffin – or any of the other handful of two or three bona fide superstars – has been foremost in Van Gundy’s mind since the Pistons named him president of basketball operations as well as head coach.

“The hardest thing to do in this league is to get a proven star,” Van Gundy said Tuesday morning in discussing the trade that jolted the NBA Monday night – Griffin, Brice Johnson and Willie Reed for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, a protected No. 1 pick and a 2019 second-rounder. “It’s just very hard to di. You get very few opportunities to do it. He’s only 28 years old. We know the injury history; that’s the risk on it. But that risk was worth it because of the talent we’re bringing back.”

Griffin, Johnson and Reed are expected to arrive in Detroit tonight and take their physical exams tomorrow. Harris, Bradley and Marjanovic have to pass their physical exams with the Clippers, as well. It’s not certain Griffin will be cleared in time to play Thursday against Memphis, but Van Gundy said he’s ready to join the Pistons after knowing no other NBA home but Los Angeles since the Clippers made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2009.

“He was actually really, really good,” Van Gundy said of Griffin’s reaction when they spoke Monday night. “He was surprised. He said yesterday morning he started finding out what was going on. When I talked to him last night, he’d had the day to digest. But he was very good on the phone and knew more about us than I thought and was talking about being eager for the challenge. He knows where we are and that we haven’t been playing well and all of that. I think he wants to come in and help us get that changed.”

Van Gundy expects Griffin, because of his shooting range and ballhandling and passing skills, to fit well next to Andre Drummond. But he acknowledges the playbook will need a significant rewrite and understands there might be some adjustment hiccups. In past trade-deadline deals for Reggie Jackson and Harris, they were plugged in to existing systems and made a fairly easy transition.

“With Blake, he’s different, so we’re going to have to make some fairly significant changes to what we’re doing and we don’t have a lot of time to do it, so that part is a little bit nerve wracking,” he said. “But we’ll put it together and it’ll have to be little by little.”

Van Gundy got his game prep for Cleveland out of the way Monday afternoon and, as the trade headed toward the finish line, began reviewing Griffin tape and envisioning his use with the Pistons.

“We haven’t really posted our fours – really, we haven’t posted anybody – and obviously we’ll want him down there. But he can really handle the ball and pass and he presents us with a lot of possibilities.”

At Tuesday’s morning staff meeting, Van Gundy told his coaches they needed to prioritize what they wanted to implement first and go from there. How the lineup and rotation comes together remains to be seen. But Van Gundy said Griffin will not only play next to Drummond but likely see time at center when Drummond sits, too.

For a fan base that’s had only one All-Star performer – Drummond, two seasons ago – since Allen Iverson in 2009, Van Gundy expects Griffin will be well received.

“They’re getting one of the great talents in this league,” he said. “You’re getting one of the top 15 to 20 players in the NBA. He’s obviously had some injuries, but when he’s been on the court he’s been great. So they’re getting a perennial All-Star here and it’s been a while.”

Not for lack of trying, though. Again, this is a day Van Gundy would have done – and has been attempting to do – since the day he signed his contract.

“Since we’ve gotten here, all of our discussions have talked about how do you get that guy?,” he said. “How do you get the real superior talents in this league. It’s been done before by teams without getting that, but it’s damn rare. You’ve got to have one of those guys. What we’ve done is almost never available to you. Some people saying “all in.” It was that a guy came available who is a great player and we took the opportunity.”