Pistons owner Tom Gores was able to see his team up close on Wednesday, with Detroit surrendering a 113-100 loss on national television to the Lakers. Detroit came into the season with somewhat high expectations, sporting a new head coach and talented frontcourt featuring the All-Star tandem of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, but the team has recorded an underwhelming 17-22 record 39 games into the campaign.
“I like this team. I think they can work through the adversity,” Gores said during a halftime interview, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “Whether we want to say it or not, this team expects to be in the playoffs. This team does expect excellence. You have Andre [Drummond] and Blake [Griffin] — and these are major, major players.”
Griffin has certainly put forth an All-Star caliber season, to Gores’ point, averaging a career-high 25.1 points to go along with 8.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Detroit made a blockbuster trade to acquire him last January, with Gores strongly reaffirming his desire to build around Griffin down the road.
“We couldn’t expect more from Blake than what he’s done,” Gores said. “He has done incredible work and everybody didn’t know what he could do — but we couldn’t expect more. Beyond his stats, he really has been a great leader. Do we want to build around him? Absolutely.”
Griffin, 29, is in the second season of a five-year, $173MM contract. The Pistons could work to build around him sooner by being aggressive prior to the Feb. 7 trade deadline, similar to the approach taken last season.
There’s more out of Detroit tonight:
- Jovan Buha of The Athletic examined the Clippers-Pistons trade centered around Griffin from last year, giving viewpoints from several players and figures on both sides. Since being traded, Griffin has worked to improve in one major category: Leadership. “I’m definitely more vocal,” Griffin said of his current role. “I think I’ve done a lot more teaching. Not necessarily teaching, but pointing out things that I see this year as opposed to years before. Just out of necessity. I think our teams were so old in L.A. that every guy knew what we were doing. So it’s been a cool challenge to change that up and figure out a different way to lead.”
- Ish Smith is getting closer to a return after missing 17 straight games with a right groin tear, Beard notes in a different story for The Detroit News. The Pistons are 4-13 in Smith’s absence, with the point guard reportedly ramping up more game-like drills on Tuesday. Head coach Dwane Casey said Smith should return either on Saturday or Monday, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com (Twitter link).
- Griffin will return to Los Angeles and play the Clippers on Saturday for the first time in nearly one year, with last year’s reunion coming nine days after he was traded. “It was a weird game for me dealing with that within the first five games back,” Griffin said when asked about last year’s contest in Los Angeles, as relayed by The Detroit News. “I think this time around will be a little bit different because I’ve had so much time to process everything and talk to people.”