At the beginning of the Nets rebuilding process, it was all about finding young outcasts or diamonds in the rough: Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie, D’Angelo Russell. Now, that the goal is the O’Brien Trophy, the Nets priorities have changed. Now it’s about finding and signing castoffs, like Jeff Green, Mike James, Blake Griffin.
The strategies are different but the goal remains the same: use all your resources, from coaching to development to performance to help the player make a difference. With Griffin, six-time All-Star, five-time All-NBA player and likely future Hall of Famer, the process looked like it was going to be a tough one. The player who jumped over a Kia and made a lot of people look silly had seemingly lost it. On arrival in Brooklyn, he hadn’t dunked in 464 days. Some even thought he couldn’t.
Now Ramona Shelburne of ESPN writes about what that was all about and how the Nets —and Griffin — knew all the time that all the then 31-year-old needed was time.
“He’d be the first to tell you he won’t be jumping over a car anytime soon,” Sean Marks told ESPN. “But I think it’s pretty clear for pretty much anyone just watching him play, he’s feeling good.
“I honestly think it’s almost, day by day, he keeps getting better and better and better.”
Shelburne didn’t talk to Griffin for her story but did the next best thing: talk to his brother, Taylor, and his longtime agent, Sam Goldfelder.
Taylor Griffin described how his brother had two knee surgeries, one much more effective than the other, in April 2019 and June 2020. As a result, Blake was still rehabbing, still not yet up to speed when the Nets signed him after the Pistons bought him out.
When the NBA decided to move up the start of this season to Christmas. Griffin still had three months of rehabilitation work to do in coming back from his second knee surgery in less than nine months.
“It was definitely a hurried-up schedule,” Taylor Griffin said. “And I think we saw that a lot of guys just needed a little bit more time to get all the way back to game shape.
“He had already sat out so much of the previous year, there was no chance he’d sit out [the start of this season]. ... His knee was 100% healthy, but there’s a difference in your body being healthy and being ready to play NBA level minutes every night.”
So dunking was a bit too risky considering the condition of his knee. Then, the Pistons, at the beginning of their rebuild, brought him out with many pundits and fans using the word, “washed” to describe him. Not Marks.
“We were going to take our time with him,” Marks said. “Just to make sure we weren’t pushing him too far, too fast, too early and so forth. We knew what we were getting in terms of veteran and high-IQ player. So it was about being able to maximize what he’s got left, career-wise. And from the first day we got him, we could see, ‘OK, there’s some more there.’”
“We knew he could still dunk like that,” said Griffin’s agent Goldfeder of Excel Sports. “It wasn’t a surprise. It was just a matter of time.”
With Jeff Green out for at least 10 days, Griffin and Nic Claxton will be asked to fill the gap and although he had his problems in Game 1, that BBIQ Marks spoke about plus his improved shooting — and dunking — is going to be at a premium.
So far, so good. Griffin is starting at center and his shooting percentages, as Shelburne points out, are up 12.7 percent from the field and 6.8 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
And oh yeah those dunks are up too. Way up.
So far, he has 19 in 28 games with Brooklyn and Marks said about his whole game, they’re getting better and better.
- Brooklyn Nets general manager says Blake Griffin feeling good, dunks no shock - Ramona Shelburne - ESPN