‘I’m grateful for Detroit’: Blazers’ Jerami Grant relishes time with Pistons

Detroit News

Portland, Ore. — Jerami Grant displayed versatility in his offensive explosion against the Pistons on Monday.

Grant drained five 3-pointers, often flashing a smile after they went through the net. He snagged offensive rebounds and dunked over his former teammates. He knocked down fadeaway jumpers from 15 feet. And he was able to finish at the rim through contact.

It was a masterful performance, with 36 points on 12-of-17 shooting from the field, 5-of-8 from beyond the arc and 7-of-9 from the free-throw line to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a decisive 135-106 victory over the Pistons.

It also marked his first game against his former team since Detroit traded him to the Trail Blazers during the offseason. And, while Grant said there wasn’t any extra motivation in playing the Pistons, his play showed otherwise.

“Not really. You think about it, but it’s not really no bad blood or anything,” Grant told reporters after the game. You’re playing against your friends and people you’ve been with for a few years. You want to play good.”

Grant, who had been linked to trade rumors before the deadline last season, was traded to the Blazers in exchange for a 2025 first-round draft pick and additional second-round picks, which the Pistons later flipped in a trade with the New York Knicks on draft night that brought No. 13 overall pick Jalen Duren to Detroit.

Grant, who had been traded once in his career before, said there was some initial “weirdness” once the deal was complete, but he eventually grew to appreciate the move.

“I think any time you get traded initially, you kind of feel a little weird,” Grant said, “but after that wore off, I was excited. Excited about being (in Portland) and being able to be in an organization like this and obviously playing with (Damian Lillard) and (Jusuf Nurkic). Both are great players. I was excited. I think it’s been great for my career.”

Grant had been signed with the Pistons through next season. He signed a three-year, $60 million deal with the Pistons as a free agent before the 2020-21 season, after one season in Denver, where he helped the Nuggets reach the Western Conference finals.

“I think it was a very important step in my career. For me, just going (to Detroit) and being able to kind of spread my wings and show people what I can do. Not just on the defensive end, but also on the offensive end. I think it opened a lot of people’s eyes going there. I’m grateful for Detroit and Troy (Weaver).”

Grant wasn’t the only former Piston representing the Trail Blazers on Monday. There was a familiar face on the sidelines, as Chauncey Billups coached Portland to a third win over the team he played with for seven seasons.

Billups, who played for eight different teams during his 17-year career in the NBA, could relate to the emotions felt when competing against a former team and spoke to Grant’s mindset after the win.

“He got a lot of friends in that locker room. It’s bragging rights,” Billups said. “It was probably so good to see those guys for him, and this is the first time. It’ll wear off in a year or two or the third, fourth, fifth time you play them, but the first time is always pretty emotional. It’s a lot of fun.”

Grant is averaging a career-high 22.4 points and a career-best 44% from on 3-pointers for the Trail Blazers. He’s become a complementary option in Portland, alongside Lillard and Anfernee Simons, a change from the role of primary scorer and defender on the Pistons.

Before the game, Pistons coach Dwane Casey was asked if it was easier to game-plan for the Blazers, given the familiarity with his tendencies. Casey did not see an advantage, instead, praising Grant.

“No, he’s (just) got a different color jersey. It makes it harder of how you’re going to stop him,” Casey said. “Jerami’s been playing great these last 10 games. He’s shooting 40-plus percent from the 3. And then you put (Lillard), who’s a Hall of Fame shooter and you put out that kid (Anfernee) Simons, who’s a great shooter. They can put a lot of shooting on the ball and dare you to put two on the ball. That’s the nightmare, but Jerami’s playing at a high level.”

Grant used his 6-foot-8 frame in a multitude of ways on Monday. There was an instance in the third quarter when Grant sank a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Blazers a 14-point lead, but it wasn’t any regular 3-pointer. Grant caught the ball and shot without gathering or bringing the ball down in his natural shooting motion.

It was a heat check. A shot that Grant knew was going in as soon as the ball left his fingertips. On another occasion, Grant drove directly into the chest of Isaiah Stewart and connected on a layup, shortly before the whistle was blown. As he lay on the court, Grant celebrated the and-one basket with a slight shimmy.

“He was incredible from the very beginning,” Billups said. “He was just aggressive. He was good all night. Obviously, super-duper efficient. Once we started seeing him going, we just started calling his plays. Our guys have gotten so good at, when a guy is rolling, I don’t even have to call it. They just know what to do.”

Grant will make his return to Detroit on March 7 when the Trail Blazers visit Little Caesars Arena. It remains to be seen what type of performance he’ll have in front of a crowd rooting for the Pistons, but his first performance against his old team sets the stage for an intriguing homecoming.

mcurtis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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