| The Detroit News
Coming off an All-NBA season in 2018-19, Blake Griffin had high expectations at the start of last season. Even though he was recovering from knee surgery, he entered training camp optimistic he’d be able to build on one of the best seasons of his career.
After experiencing some knee issues, he missed the first 10 games of the season, and although he played 18 games last season, it wasn’t up to his high standard. He wasn’t near 100% and it showed, but he still soldiered through as best he could, until the end of December, when he was forced to shut it down and eventually have another knee surgery in February.
With the pandemic delaying the start of the season, Griffin has had plenty of time to rehab the knee and to get ready for the start of the season, which kicks of this week with the start of training camp.
The time off has given him time to think about his path back to his standard — but also the detractors who have been there for each of the injuries in his career.
That’s only served as motivation for him to come back even stronger.
“Yeah, I’m very excited. It’s been a long year of chatter. I’ve been through this so many times. You miss a year, have a down year or deal with some injuries and you hear it all,” Griffin said in a call with reporters. “In this league, you’re only as good as your last game, your last season or whenever was the last time you touched the court. I’ve had a lot of time to think about it and a lot of time to gather motivation — I’ll say that.”
Griffin, 30, had one of the worst statistical seasons of his career, with just 15.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists. Without the proper lift on his jump shot, he hit a career-worst 35% from the field and only 24% from beyond the arc.
With the litany of new players on the roster — Griffin now is the longest-tenured Pistons player, after coming over in January 2018 — it’s been a sea of change around him, but he’s maintaining a sunny outlook on what the season can bring.
“It has been a lot of changes, but I think I was sort of prepared for that,” Griffin said. “I like the pieces that we got; we got a lot of guys who are most importantly great guys that compete and play hard.
“That’s what’s very important.”
One school of thought would be to bring Griffin back slowly and to try to ensure that he wouldn’t aggravate the knee issues. With Griffin’s injury history, it’s a constant debate about how to best handle him and his minutes, especially given the energy he expends on each trip down the court.
That responsibility falls on coach Dwane Casey, but don’t look for the Pistons to try to trim his minutes and ration his playing time — at least not initially.
“I had lunch with Blake a few weeks ago. He didn’t want to hear about the minutes restrictions. We’ll put that off until later; we’ll talk about that later. He’s full-go,” Casey said Tuesday. “He’s been working his behind off in L.A. with his regular routine. We’re a different team with him. Just blending him and all the guys in together will be our challenge. Them getting to know each other and what each other likes.”
Getting Griffin’s skill set back in the lineup will be a welcome return for the Pistons, who struggled to find players to build around last season. Christian Wood emerged as a find, but with Griffin back, the Pistons know what they have in the six-time All-Star.
With Griffin’s work ethic, it’s a safe bet that he’ll be ready when the season opens Dec. 22.
“Fortunately, and unfortunately, the pandemic hit and it gave him an extended period of time to get his total health back,” Casey said. “Nobody has worked harder on their health and on their body than Blake. He’s lighter, so he looks really good, and we’re excited to get him back in the gym and back on our team.”