SVG’s advice to newest Piston: Don’t worry about fitting in, just be Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin is expected to make his Pistons debut on Thursday and Stan Van Gundy wants him to come out with no holds barred
Pistons Photo
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – Stan Van Gundy’s advice to Blake Griffin, in a nutshell: You do you.

“Just from my little bit talking to him, I think he wants to be a guy that just gets to know people and comes in and plays his game. I don’t think he’s going to, on a vocal level, try to take over right away. My only point to him is I don’t want that ‘trying to fit in thing’ to be what he does on the court. I’ve seen that happen to guys. They’re a little reluctant to have the ball in their hands or be too aggressive offensively. Everybody in there knows, that’s what he was brought here to do. He needs to just play his game. That’s why we brought him here.”

Griffin is a vastly different and more versatile player than Greg Monroe, but if you want to take a stab at how Van Gundy will put his minutes to use with Andre Drummond that’s a pretty good blueprint.

“We haven’t decided all that yet, but I do think there’s times where they’ll both be on the floor together. But I think I would like to stagger it where most of the time, at least one of them’s out there on the floor,” Van Gundy said after Wednesday’s practice.

Griffin – along with ex-Clipper teammates Willie Reed and Brice Johnson – was able to observe the practice but not participate. The three newest Pistons passed their physical exams Wednesday morning but the three players sent to Los Angeles – Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley and Boban Marjanovic, due to the three-hour time difference – had not yet been cleared by Clippers staff to finalize the trade.

When Drummond and Monroe were teammates for Van Gundy’s first season with the Pistons, he generally let Drummond play the entire first and third quarters while pulling Monroe roughly midway through each quarter in order to have him fresh to replace Drummond at center to start the second and fourth quarters.

With Van Gundy’s intention to play Griffin at center as well as power forward, that’s a reasonable facsimile of how the Pistons rotation will be formulated Thursday at Little Caesars Arena – assuming there is no last-minute snag from the Clippers end with physicals so that Griffin, Reed and Johnson can suit up and play.

The Pistons had no expectation that there would be any red flags with Griffin’s physical despite the media scrutiny of his injury history. Though Griffin has missed from 15 to 47 games in each of the past four seasons, he doesn’t have a chronic injury or one that has appeared to rob him of his breathless athleticism.

“Some of them are fluke and obviously our people took a long, hard look at all of his medical records,” Van Gundy said. “It was obvious the Clippers went through a lot of work doing that to decide to sign him to the super max contract, so we think – and he’s doing a great job taking care of himself – it was a manageable risk.”

Van Gundy lauded the diligence of general manager Jeff Bower in pushing the deal to its conclusion and the support of owner Tom Gores for giving the green light on a transaction that comes with a huge financial commitment.

“What Jeff did was remarkable,” he said. “For him to be able to get us in position is outstanding front-office work and this was him. He deserves a ton of credit. So does Tom because Tom was the one – it’s his money at stake and (he’s) willing to take the risk because the guy really is committed to winning.”

The Pistons will introduce their three newest players in a 4 p.m. news conference that will be streamed at Pistons.com. I’ll have more on Griffin’s reaction to the trade and his expectations for the Pistons later today.