The Pistons’ All-Star forward has been sidelined since late in the preseason with hamstring and knee injuries. He underwent surgery after last season to repair torn meniscus in the left knee.
“I’m close, very close,” Griffin said. “The training staff tells me it’s one day at a time. They tell me what I’m doing the next day, and that’s it, because they know I’d go crazy if I have a timetable. The team has a plan and I trust our training staff. They know what they’re doing so I’m going to listen to them.”
The Pistons are off to a 3-5 start after losing at Washington on Monday night. They’ll host the Knicks on Wednesday.
Griffin’s absence has been magnified by backcourt injuries. Starting point guard Reggie Jackson will miss at least the next four weeks after being diagnosed with a stress reaction in his lower back. Backups Derrick Rose (hamstring) and Tim Frazier (shoulder) have missed the last two games.
Markieff Morris, signed as a free agent this offseason, has been starting in Griffin’s place.
Griffin has already missed more regular-season games than he did all of last season, when he appeared in 75 contests. He received three nights off last season for load management but played all others until the knee injury cropped up in the closing weeks. He also missed two playoff games.
Executives around the NBA will be on alert to see if the Pistons go into sell mode and put Griffin and Andre Drummond on the block, Charania adds. Drummond can become an unrestricted free agent after the season if he opts out. Griffin is in the third year of the five-year, $171.2MM contract he signed with the Clippers before he was traded midway through the first year of the deal. He can opt out after the 2020/21 season.
However, Griffin is optimistic the Pistons will retain him and Drummond and return to the postseason.
“I’m excited because I like this team a lot,” Griffin told The Athletic. “We’re tough and we fight. There’s a grit to this team. … I’m excited about this team and the prospects of coming back and leading this group.”