With time to settle in, Griffin ready to assume Pistons leadership role

Blake Griffin has been one Pistons player who has managed to do consistent damage in the paint so far this season.
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – What Tom Gores quickly came to know about Blake Griffin, his Pistons teammates have discovered, as well.

“The thing I’ve been surprised about with Blake is that he’s a leader,” the Pistons owner said last week. “He’s actually a true leader. Beyond his athletic ability and all that stuff, I think Blake is going to be great for us.”

A few days later, it was Griffin who took it upon himself to address the team in their end-of-season meeting before players scattered to their corners of the country.

“It’s a role that he should and does embrace,” Stan Van Gundy said. “It’s not he and Chris Paul. Clearly, he’s the most accomplished guy on our team to this point. Five-time All-Star. Guys look up to him, so people are going to be looking at him and I think he wants that. They’re going to be seeing what he does and listening to what he says.”

Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson were thrust into leadership roles – perhaps before they were fully prepared to lead – by virtue of their status as the team’s top players early in Van Gundy’s tenure with a roster light on veterans. Jackson is happy to accommodate Griffin’s assumption of the mantle.

“I think it can be collective, but it just shifts us all back into the position where we should be,” Jackson said. “One of my favorite drinks is a Shirley Temple. So Dre can be the Sprite, Blake can be the grenadine and I’m just the straw the stirs the drink. That’s the perfect role for a point guard.”

Jackson’s perception of Griffin began changing before they became teammates. During his rehabilitation from the knee injury that curtailed his 2016-17 season, Jackson last summer spent some time with Griffin.

“Being around him as a teammate and seeing him day in and day out – how hard he works, how serious he is and how successful he wants to be – you pick up some good traits. He’s really about winning.”

Jackson returned from a 37-game absence with a sprained ankle with 12 games left in the season and the Pistons went 3-1 – the only loss coming in overtime on the road against the team with the NBA’s best record, Houston – before Griffin missed the last eight games with a right ankle bone bruise. It gave Jackson a taste and made him eager for more.

“Being around him daily, I’ve learned some great things about Blake and I like what I see,” he said. “I definitely think we can all mesh and I can’t wait to really mesh with him. I’ve already got some chemistry with Dre, but to get with those two guys and get some more games under our best and get the entirety of our team healthy and together, that’s something I really can’t wait for. I’m going to enjoy the summer, but I know it’s going to eat away at me. As soon as I get refreshed, can’t wait to get back on the court and compete with these guys.”

Griffin’s willingness to lead and the willingness of his teammates to have him assume leadership – with the benefit of an off-season and a full training camp together to settle into that role – will reset team chemistry in ways Van Gundy and Jackson expect to benefit the Pistons.

“He’s a very mature guy,” Van Gundy said of Griffin. “On top of everything, I think it’s a great role for him. I think he’s ready for it and I think it’s good for him and good for our team.”