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Blake Griffin getting better as need for him grows

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Brooklyn Nets v Denver Nuggets Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Fans easily forget that only two seasons ago, Blake Griffin was All-NBA and an All-Star, averaging a career-high 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 75 games while leading the Pistons to the playoffs.

Sure, since then he had (minor) knee surgery and a long rehab but as anyone who’s watched the Nets in recent games, the Blake Griffin running the court —and now starting — for Brooklyn is far, far from being done. In the Nets come from behind win over the Nuggets, Griffin had 20 points, including 16 and four three’s in the third quarter as the Nets made their move. More than that, Griffin played more than respectable defense against Nikola Jokic. It was an all around game.

Listed by the Nets at 6’10” and 250 pounds, Griffin is just what the Nets need as they go into the playoffs, a savvy and experienced big who can move around the court freely in the Nets offense while playing solid defense. Moreover, he is among the more experienced Nets in post-season play, with 53 games that include three triple-doubles, 17 double-doubles and six 30-point games.

No one is saying he’s the Kia-jumping denizen of Lob City, but as Brian Lewis writes Monday, he can still bring a lot. Ask Kyrie Irving.

“That’s what we need Blake to be in terms of being out there, being an option for us, being a playmaker,” Kyrie Irving told beat writers after beating the Nuggets. “His game has evolved. We understand that he’s going to play a different style with us out there, and that’s going to complement when he figures that role out.

“But, for right now, we just need him to stay aggressive playing as our big, especially at that defensive end. We’re asking a lot out of him. So we’ve just got to help him out as best we can, just continue to communicate with him. But [Saturday] was a great stepping stone for him, as well as for our team.”

Our Matt Brooks took a look at Griffin’s contribution on Sunday.

A big part of Brooklyn’s three-point boom came from none other than Blake Griffin, Brooklyn’s tremendous buyout market grab that just seems to do a little bit of everything. 4 three-pointers in the third quarter in one thing...

But when he leverages those three-point makes into at-rim shots with fancy finishes, THAT is where the money is made.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Blake Griffin was a massive steal.

Also, it’s not that he can’t dunk anymore, as some suggested before his signing with the Nets, pointing to the 464 days he had gone without a slam. Now, he dunks regularly and it seems that his explosiveness is slowly returning. Remember, he spent nearly a week with the Nets performance team between when he was signed and when he first stepped on the court for Brooklyn.

What does the future, both immediate and long-term, hold for the 32-year-old? Sunday was his sixth start of the season and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Steve Nash went with him at the 5 when the playoffs begin on May 22.

He’ll be a free agent in the summer and it’s hard to believe the Nets won’t want him back. He has said all the rights things as well. The Nets will also have a nice cushion when negotiating with the Griffin. No matter where he plays next season, at no matter what he’s signed for, he will be paid a guaranteed $29.8 million, the amount of his buyout from Detroit. Any money he makes from another team will be deducted from what the Pistons owe him.

And if he stays, he’ll also be able to spend a whole summer with the performance team. Who knows what that can produce.