Most of the time, veteran buyout players don’t make a big difference going from losing teams to contenders. In Blake Griffin’s case, it didn’t take long to shut down that narrative.
Griffin, who was bought out by the Pistons in early March, signed a rest of season deal with the Nets shortly after - joining a team aspiring to win its first championship. Griffin has locked in on the Nets’ “common goal,” he said. He’s grateful for the opportunity to join a team that accepted him.
“They’ve been fantastic. From the time I got here, they accepted me. It’s been very positive. Helped me out with this transition, try to feel comfortable, normal and encourage me to play my game,” Griffin said. “Anytime you have that, it obviously makes a transition like this much easier. I’m very appreciative of all of them.”
In Griffin’s case, he was viewed as a declining player who was knocked for his lack of bounce and athleticism while with the Pistons. The man who once dunked over a Kia to win the Dunk Contest, hadn’t dunked in 464 days. There were even reports he couldn’t dunk, a ridiculous notion.
Now with the Nets, Griffin has proven the doubters wrong with multiple reunions at the rim along complementing his rejuvenated bounce with career-highs in three-point shooting percentage (47.1 percent) and field goal percentage (60.5 percent) but his biggest impact comes off the box score with taking charges (a team-high five), physicality and playing with grit.
Griffin holds an offensive rating of 126.2, a defensive rating of 102.5 and a net rating of 23.6.
And oh yes he can still dunk. Griffin has five dunks in seven games with the Nets. He had five dunks in his final 49 games with the Pistons. As he said after his first, “I still got it.” And indeed, he still does.
There’s no secret competing for a championship has motivated Griffin, especially being on a team loaded with superstar talent that has provided him a fresh start with less pressure. The 31-year-old is no longer demanded to be a top scoring option nor carry a heavy load anymore. He serves as a role player off the bench.
“Anytime you are around a lot of like-minded guys and guys you’ve known for a long time - played with and against - it’s refreshing. There’s that common goal. Everyone is focused on that one thing and that’s always nice,” Griffin said.
While chasing that common goal, the Nets have been cautious with Griffin thus far in his tenure. Steve Nash and the Nets have rested their role player in second games of back-to-backs and took a slow approach ramping him up for game play after he arrived. He wasn’t hurt, he noted. It was just that the Nets wanted him to work with the performance team.
For Griffin, all that speaks volumes about the way the Nets organization treats their players - a narrative that certainly resonates around the league or he and his All-NBA colleagues wouldn’t be wearing black-and-white.
“Other than a change of scenery - from top to bottom, this organization does an unbelievable job of taking care of their guys and thinking of everything,” Griffin said. “As a player, you always appreciate that. Not to say I didn’t have situations like that but they do as good of a job of anyone here.”
Will that matter when the 32-year-old is in free agency this summer? Unlike LaMarcus Aldridge, his buyout covered this season and next. So he’ll get paid by the Pistons next season, to the tune of $29.8 million, no matter what. That should permit him to play where he’s happiest.