| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Pistons’ Blake Griffin: Been around too long to listen to trade rumors
Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin speaks to the media on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020.
After the Detroit Pistons selected him with the 19th pick in November’s draft, Saddiq Bey flew to Los Angeles to train with the longest-tenured member of the team — Blake Griffin.
Griffin came away from their workout sessions impressed with Bey’s approach to the game. He’s watching film on Detroit’s other three rookies as well, acclimating himself with their games before the Pistons’ entire team meets for the first time Sunday to prepare for the season.
He acknowledged it’s weird to be the longest-tenured Piston. He joked the rookies make him feel old. But he’s encouraged by what he saw from Bey, saying he already has a complete game for a rookie. And he’s looking forward to working with the rookies and embracing his mentor designation.
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“I love their attitude, their approach,” Griffin said Tuesday of Bey and the Pistons’ other three rookies — Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart and Saben Lee. “Each of them bring something a little bit different. I think it’ll be great for Killian to learn from Derrick (Rose) and have that role model. Isaiah and Saben as well. Great guys and hard workers. I’ll take those attributes in a rookie any day.”
Given the Pistons have made an effort to get younger and bring in rookies they believe will help the franchise get on the right track, it’s logical Griffin, a multi-time All-Star, will be the positive role model.
It also means Griffin, 31, will have dual roles for the Pistons. He underwent surgery on his left knee in January to address an issue with soreness, and has spent much of the extended offseason rehabbing his knee.
The 2020-21 season could be a comeback campaign and a mentoring one. And while addressing reporters during Day 1 of the Pistons’ media week, Griffin made it clear he’s excited for both, and that the two goals don’t conflict with each other.
“As far as coming back and playing, my agenda isn’t to come out and score as many points and shoot as many baskets as possible,” Griffin said. “It’s never that. It’s to be a complete player, be a leader, when you’re asked to score, score, when you’re asked to do something else, you do that. I don’t think those are two conflicting ideas. You can still be a mentor, you can still develop the young guys.”
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In his first full season with the Pistons in 2018-19, Griffin averaged 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists, shooting 46.2% overall and 36.2% from 3. It was arguably the most complete season of his career, one that saw him earn All-Star and All-NBA third team honors. While he’s happy to mentor the rookies, he’s eager to play, too.
If Griffin’s going to have a minute restriction this season to help ease him into live competition, it’s a conversation that will be had later.
“He didn’t want to hear about the minute restriction,” coach Dwane Casey said. “We put that off until later, we’ll talk about it later. He’s full go. He’s been working his behind off in LA, his regular routine. We’re excited to get him back to our team. We’re a different team with him.
“I’m excited to get Blake back, and again, unfortunately this pandemic hit and it gave him an extended period of time to get his total health back, and nobody has worked harder on their health and their body than Blake. He’s lighter, so he looks really good. So we’re excited to get him back in the gym and back with the team.”
Griffin characterized this year as a long year of “chatter.” He underwent surgery Jan. 7, and it unofficially kicked off the “retooling” process for the Pistons.
This isn’t new to Griffin, who missed his entire rookie campaign due to a left knee injury, and has battled other injuries in his career. But during his time away, the Pistons hired a new general manager in Troy Weaver and remade the roster. Third-year wing Svi Mykhailiuk is the only other player remaining from the 2018-19 roster — Mykhailiuk was a midseason acquisition who played three games.
“I like the pieces that we got,” Griffin said. “We got a lot of people who are most importantly great guys, and also guys that compete, play hard and work hard. That’s what’s very important.”
Griffin said he still has conversations to have with his teammates and the rest of the staff about his role for the season. Even though training camp started Tuesday, group workouts won’t start until Sunday, after several days of testing to limit any spread of the COVID-19 virus.
But he understands the Pistons don’t want to hold him back. The franchise has made it clear they intend to compete to win this season, and a healthy Griffin will help them.
And if the Pistons shift gears on their goals for the season, Griffin will embrace that direction, too.
“If developing young guys is the goal for this season, I’ll do whatever they ask of me,” Griffin said. “I’ll spend more time with the young guys, I’ll try to teach more, listen more, whatever it is. We haven’t met as a team yet, obviously. Once we do that, I’ll have more conversations and figure out how I fit into that. I’ll do whatever they ask of me, like I said. If that’s the emphasis, that’s the emphasis. I’m a Piston, and whatever they decide, that’s what the common goal is.”
Contact Omari Sankofa II at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.