| The Detroit News
Blake Griffin’s career with the Pistons ended Friday, with the announcement that he and the team had reached a contract buyout, which will make him a free agent.
Griffin’s three-plus seasons started with high expectations but will be remembered for the blockbuster trade in 2018 that was expected to bring prosperity and title contention, but only resulted in one playoff appearance, a four-game sweep to the Milwaukee Bucks.
His tenure with the Pistons will be remembered for the 2018-19 season, when he earned his sixth All-Star appearance and was selected All-NBA.
There were many other memorable games and moments that will last in Pistons’ fans memories for years to come. Here are five memorable games from Griffin’s time with the Pistons:
►The playoffs: After missing the first two games of the playoff series against the Bucks in 2019, Griffin made his return for Games 3 and 4 in Detroit. He got a rousing ovation, after he had missed six the previous nine games because of knee issues. In Game 4 on April 22, 2019, Griffin was clearly hobbled, sporting a heavy knee brace and trying to will the Pistons to even one win to avoid the sweep.
The Bucks were too strong and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s drive with 7:06 left drew another Griffin foul, and he had fouled out of the game. He had 22 points, five rebounds and six assists, but it wasn’t about the numbers — it was about the fact that he left everything out on the court in those final two games. It was a fitting finish to Griffin’s All-NBA season when the fans showed their appreciation with an awesome tribute of adoration.
“Blake played his heart out with basically one leg and he gave everything he could for our team. He fought through a lot of pain and swelling, just so he could support his teammates,” coach Dwane Casey said after the game. “I think we were in sixth place when he started experiencing the swelling and everything, but he kept with it and kept playing until he couldn’t play anymore.”
►Fifty-ball: There were plenty of games in Blake Griffin’s career when he was hard to guard. Against the Philadelphia 76ers on October 23, 2018, he was unstoppable. Griffin scored a career-high 50 points and added 14 rebounds and six assists in a 130-128 victory at Little Caesars Arena.
Griffin was 20-of-35 from the field and 5-of-10 on 3-pointers, and he played a season-high 44 minutes, in just the Pistons’ third game of the season.
“He was making problems in our defense all the time and we couldn’t find a solution for him. Some of us tried to stop him and he just had an amazing day,” Sixers forward Dario Saric said. “We tried to do everything, but sometimes we can’t, you know?”
►Thunder and lightning: There were games with more points, but Griffin truly shined on April 5, 2019, in his home state against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Griffin had 44 points through the first three quarters, and he finished with 45 in a 123-110 loss.
“He played well. He came back and he was the Blake that we all know. It was great to give him some rest,” guard Reggie Jackson said. “He came back and played aggressively. It was good to see him going well; the rest of us have to pick it up behind him.”
Griffin had 31 points in the first half, which tied a franchise record that was set by Grant Hill in 1999. The most eye-popping stat may have been his nine 3-pointers (on 14 attempts), which was his career high. His previous high before that? Six.
►Not-so-happy homecoming: On Jan. 12, 2019, in his first game back at Staples Center in Los Angeles to face his former team, Griffin made headlines before the game even started. Clippers team owner Steve Ballmer was looking to greet Griffin following the pregame warm-ups. Griffin, a notable creature of habit when it comes to his pregame routine, either didn’t see or he chose not to acknowledge Ballmer and bypassed the handshake and ran to the locker room.
“For nine years now, as soon as I’m done with my pregame shooting, I make sure there’s a path and I take off running to the locker room and don’t stop running,” Griffin explained. “A lot of you know that a lot of you have been here for a long time and have seen me do that before. I don’t change that for anybody.”
The pregame incident didn’t seem to be a distraction for Griffin, who scored 26 of his 44 points in the first half, leading the Pistons to a 109-104 victory.
►First game: With news of the blockbuster trade that brought Griffin to the Pistons, Little Caesars Arena was full of energy for the first home game with the superstar, against the Memphis Grizzlies on Feb. 1, 2018. There was a palpable energy in the building, with the Pistons putting t-shirts on every seat, in anticipation of a sellout and to usher in the new era.
Griffin had 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in his home debut, which the Pistons won after a late surge. Griffin notably forgot to put on a new jersey at halftime, and Anthony Tolliver had to start the third quarter because Griffin had to wait to get a fresh one.
“I wanted to just come out and play hard, being very limited in my knowledge of our offense,” Griffin said.
Blake Griffin is introduced at his first game with the Pistons
After the blockbuster trade that brought him from the Los Angeles Clippers, Griffin gets an ovation from the fans at Little Caesars Arena.
Rod Beard, The Detroit News