‘I’m playing tomorrow’ – Blake Griffin declares himself ready after missing first 10 Pistons games
Brian Sevald (NBAE/Getty)
DETROIT – Blake Griffin has been an obedient patient, if sometimes an impatient one. He’s missed the first 10 games but won’t be missing an 11th just yet, he clarified.
“I’m playing tomorrow,” Griffin said after Sunday’s practice – one in which two other injured Pistons, Derrick Rose and Tim Frazier, also participated, meaning only Reggie Jackson – who’ll be re-evaluated for his back injury in late November – is ruled out for Monday night when the Pistons host Minnesota.
The Pistons by their own admission have used an abundance of caution with Griffin, who played more than 2,600 minutes last season and wound up limping to the finish line with a knee injury that required surgery in April. He was ready for training camp, but experienced pain in the knee and hamstring and was shut down before the Oct. 23 opener at Indiana.
He’s followed orders and will do so again as the Pistons training staff and medical team maps out a blueprint for how much Casey can use him.
“I’m going to be forced to be eased into it, so I will be eased into it,” he said. “I don’t really know what to expect. I’m going in with an open mind. I don’t think that I’ve ever been on this type of a restriction before, so I don’t know what to expect. Just trying to contribute.”
As the Pistons have adapted to life without Griffin and an array of players have had to shoulder broader responsibilities, they’ve developed the ability to be less reliant on him even when Griffin returns to full capacity.
Last year’s Pistons didn’t have Derrick Rose, averaging 20.8 points over his first six games. The Luke Kennard of this season is a markedly different, more versatile and more confident player who’s averaging 18 points and shooting 42 percent from the 3-point line. Andre Drummond has taken another step up defensively and as a facilitator.
“I think it’s my job to fit into all of that and find a way to help make those guys better,” Griffin said. “Each season is different. Last season, I felt like I had to take on more of a scoring role. This year we have guys who are primed to score the basketball a little bit more in a variety of different ways. I don’t see that as being the role for me this year as much as it is facilitating and picking and choosing times down the stretch.
“I’ve never really been that guy, like all I want to do is score. Last year it was sort of put in my lap a little bit more, so to speak. All those guys have taken another step and do look comfortable, but it’s my job not to take away from that. It’s my job to accentuate that and make it better.”
The individual encouraging stories aside, Griffin saw too many collective gaffes over the first 10 games for his liking. At 4-6, the Pistons haven’t undermined their season but Griffin saw a few squandered wins during his time in street clothes.
“The encouraging thing is I think we could’ve or should’ve won at least two more of those,” he said. “We’ve been pretty shorthanded for the past week or maybe more than that, but at no point in the season do you ever want to drop games you feel like you should win, whether you’re healthy or not. We have very capable basketball players on this team and whether people are healthy or hurt, we’ve got to go out and compete. It’s more about us or how we’ve played than it is about anything else.”