Analysis: How Blake Griffin’s split from Pistons can leave both sides satisfied

Detroit News

Rod Beard | The Detroit News

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Given what Blake Griffin has shown in the early part of this season, the volume on the questions about how things were going to end of his time with the Pistons was going to play out was starting to increase.

It reached a fever pitch with the announcement that Griffin and the Pistons have mutually agreed to look for a new path forward in their future together. Griffin won’t play again with the team, though he’ll still be around the practice facility and remain on the roster until some resolution is found.

That likely means either a trade to a contender or a buyout for Griffin, 31, a six-time All-Star.

It’s not the way that many people imagined that things would end when the Pistons traded for Griffin in 2018. They envisioned playoff runs and many years of him staying healthy and playing at an All-NBA level, as he did in the 2019 season.

Griffin’s body couldn’t sustain that level of excellence.

When he left the court after fouling out in Game 4 against the Milwaukee Bucks in 2019, the superhero left, with a knee brace bearing all the weight of expectation. From fans, from the Pistons, from Griffin himself — who can be his harshest critic, by holding himself to the high standards.

It hasn’t been about jumping over cars and the high-flying act that made him a household name in his first seven-plus season with the Los Angeles Clippers. With the Pistons, it was a transformation, where Griffin was a 6-foot-10 do-it-all savior, who made the Pistons relevant again and was on track to have a better career than he left behind in Hollywood.

“He gave his heart and soul to our team for us to make the playoffs my first year here, and I remember that. We went through him; he was a point-forward and he handled the ball. His usage rate was high, and he carried us that entire year,” coach Dwane Casey said. “He gave it to this organization and the city. He’s a stand-up guy. He will be in the Hall of Fame someday and hopefully, I’m around and see it.

“He gave his heart and soul to this organization and, we, as Pistons fans, should thank him.”

The Pistons are looking to get more playing time for their young pieces such as Sekou Doumbouya and Saddiq Bey, who was named Eastern Conference player of the week. Casey said that Bey’s ascendence likely had something to do with speeding up the decision to find a new direction for Griffin.

Whether that comes by trade or through a buyout is the big question. Griffin is owed $37 million for this season and he has a player option for $39 million next year. Those are numbers big enough to scare off a team from a trade, but the Pistons likely will pursue that option ahead of the March 25 trade deadline.

The other option is proposing a buyout for a smaller number, which would make Griffin a free agent and allow him to pick his next destination. There are some benefits to that direction, including potentially saving the Pistons some money in the salary cap.

There are teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers, who have lost Anthony Davis to injury for a few weeks, and the Brooklyn Nets, who could be interested in adding a veteran like Griffin for a playoff run. Some other options could include the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics.

Maybe even a team like the Phoenix Suns could take some interest if the fit is right for them. Coincidentally, the Suns’ senior vice president of basketball operations is Jeff Bower, who was the Pistons’ general manager when they traded for Griffin.

For what it’s worth, Pistons general manager Troy Weaver is making another strong statement in moving his rebuild forward, after keeping just four players from last season’s roster to start the year. After Derrick Rose’s trade last week and the impending Griffin departure, only Doumbouya and Svi Mykhailiuk remain from last year’s team.

Griffin had the best season of his career in a Pistons uniform, but injuries drained all of that high-level player from achieving more. Some Pistons fans will remember Griffin as an overpaid superstar who never lived up to expectation.

Others will remember him for the best season a Pistons player has had since maybe the Grant Hill era. His value is more to Casey.

“From a coaching standpoint, I appreciate it. I appreciate everything he did for the team, for the organization, and for the community,” Casey said. “He’s done a lot for the city, for the inner-city kids, for the COVID push to promote mask-wearing and all those things for the governor.

“He’s a stand-up all-around guy from that standpoint, so all the Pistons fans should look at him in a big-time positive light.”

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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