Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin Denies Snubbing Clippers’ Owner

Blake Griffin insists he wasn’t deliberately avoiding Clippers‘ owner Steve Ballmer when he sprinted to the locker room prior to this afternoon’s game in Los Angeles, relays Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. In a video that quickly went viral, Ballmer approaches his former player for a pre-game handshake, but Griffin turns and runs away.

“For nine years now, as soon as I’m done with my pregame shooting, I make sure there’s a path and I take off running to the locker room,” Griffin told reporters after the game. “I don’t stop running. A lot of you have seen me do that before. I don’t change that for anybody. To tweet out something like that, I thought was kind of bull—-. That’s what it was. Plain and simple. It wasn’t anything planned. Every single game I’ve done this for how long.”

Although he claims the Ballmer incident was a misunderstanding, Griffin was clearly motivated to send a message to his former team. He had a game-high 44 points, along with eight rebounds, five assists and three steals, in leading the Pistons to an important road victory. He also picked up some revenge against the team that traded him 12 months ago, not long after signing him to a five-year max deal.

Griffin has admitted he hasn’t been in contact with any members of the Clippers’ front office since the trade, and when asked after the game about L.A. coach Doc Rivers, Griffin responded, “He’s not my coach anymore.” Another reporter asked if he would be willing to shake hands with Ballmer if given another chance and Griffin said, “I’m honestly not here to answer hypothetical questions.”

Griffin had a friendlier reaction to some of his former teammates, according to ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz, who writes that he embraced Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell following the game, although he traded words with Patrick Beverley in the final seconds.

Detroit coach Dwane Casey said Griffin’s teammates understood how important the game was to him, adding that the Pistons are thrilled with how the trade worked out.

“We’re glad we got him,” Casey said. “He’s the foundation of our program going forward. He showed tonight how he’s playing at an all-pro — not all-star — all-pro level.”

Eastern Notes: Pistons, Morris, Wood, Sixers

The Pistons’ top brass is expected to meet in Los Angeles today to discuss ways to improve the team, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports. Owner Tom Gores, coach Dwane Casey, senior adviser Ed Stefanski and vice chairman Arn Tellem will discuss how to revive the playoff hopes of the floundering team and provide star forward Blake Griffin with a better supporting cast. Detroit got off to a 13-7 start but has lost 16 of its last 20 games.  A point guard and a wing player capable of creating offense top the wish list but the team’s cap situation makes it difficult to swing a deal, Ellis continues. The roster is littered with bad contracts and injury-prone players and the team is just under the luxury tax line, Ellis adds.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Tempers flared between Celtics players Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown during a second-quarter timeout on Thursday but GM Danny Ainge is downplaying the incident. The duo exchanged words and Morris, who apparently told Brown to play harder, shoved the swingman before Marcus Smart separated them, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Ainge told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe the altercation was no big deal. “It’s two good kids that are competitive,” he said. “They both want the same thing. Emotions happen in games, and I’m not worried about it.”
  • Bucks big man Christian Wood is relieved that the team guaranteed his salary for the remainder of the season, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. His $1,512,601 salary became guaranteed on Thursday. He has a $1,645,357 non-guaranteed salary for next season. The 6’10” Wood has appeared in six games with Milwaukee while biding most of his time in the G League. “It’s real nice,” Wood said. “I talked to (GM) Jon (Horst) before the deadline passed and he said my time is going to come, I’ve just got to keep working, keep staying with the program and keep doing everything I’m supposed to do. He thinks I’m a good fit for this team.”
  • The 76ers named Annelie Schmittel as the team’s VP of player development, according to a team press release. She will be responsible for creating, managing and overseeing the holistic development and implementation of programs that support professional and personal growth of players, staff and families. She spent the last three seasons with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders.

Pistons Notes: Griffin, Gores, Smith

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.”

Central Notes: Griffin, Thomas, Evans, Rose

Pistons coach Dwane Casey wants to reduce Blake Griffin‘s workload, as he told the Detroit Free Press. Griffin is averaging 35.9 minutes per game, the sixth-most for any player in the league. The former Clipper has missed significant time with injuries over the past four seasons but sat out only one game this season, when Casey decided to give him a night off. “We want to watch his minutes and the key is the first half,” Casey said. “Making sure we keep it at a certain level in the first half, that’s what I’ve done with most high minutes players or high usage players in the past.”

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Casey inserted rookie second-round pick Bruce Brown Jr. into the lineup against Washington on Wednesday. He would like to get his other rookie wing player, Khyri Thomas, some minutes as well. Thomas who was chosen four picks ahead of Brown and acquired in a draft-day deal with Philadelphia. He has made 43.2% of his 3-point attempts while averaging 19.9 points in seven games with the G League’s Grand Rapids Drive. “It’s up to me to get some growth out of these young guys,” Casey said.
  • Pacers guard Tyreke Evans received PRP injections for his sore right knee and he feels much better, as he told J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star and other media members. Evans had 19 points and five assists in 19 minutes against Atlanta on Wednesday after sitting out the previous two games. That was his highest point since he supplied 23 points against Miami in mid-November. Evans will be a free agent again after signing a one-year, $12MM deal with Indiana over the summer.
  • Derrick Rose could return to the Bulls in free agency, as he hinted to the media this week in comments relayed by Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago. Rose has enjoyed a bounce-back season with the Timberwolves and will be an unrestricted FA after the season. “This is home for me. I’ll never leave Chicago,” Rose said. “I still have a place here, I’m always going to have a place here. … You never know in the future, you never know.” A Rose reunion would speed up the tempo of the Bulls’ offense and boost their perimeter shooting, Strotman notes.

Central Notes: LaVine, Bullock, Portis, Griffin

The Bulls‘ rebuild process is temporarily on hold after the recent injury to star guard Zach LaVine, as the team will once again have to wait to see how all its core players fit together, Mark Strotman of NBC Sports writes. LaVine suffered a sprained left ankle in Mexico City last week, with the 24-year-old expected to miss at least 2-to-4 more weeks of action.

LaVine’s injury comes around the same time another Bulls player, Bobby Portis, sustained a sprained ankle of his own. The team announced a similar 2-to-4 week absence for Portis on Thursday.

“Well first of all it’s heartbreaking for me, and I know John and Gar and Jerry and Michael, it’s heartbreaking,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said of the team’s recent injuries. “(The) injury thing is out of your control, it’s very difficult. But we’ll just get them together when they’re available and we’ll evaluate it from there. I don’t know what else to do really. Other teams go through it. It’s part of the league. We just have to do the best we can when it’s possible to play them together.”

The Bulls have dealt with injuries to key players such as Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and LaVine this season, struggling to gain a rhythm offensively and work as a unit defensively. Team management decided to fire coach Fred Hoiberg earlier this month after a 5-19 start to the season, naming Boylen as his replacement.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Pistons forward Reggie Bullock has used his contract season as motivation, with the 27-year-old set to enter free agency in July. “It’s definitely a confidence builder,” Bullock said, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “It’s the last year of my current contract, but I’m just going out hungry. I gotta eat. I’ve got stuff I’ve got to do and my teammates are blessing me with advice and telling me to shoot the ball and give me a lot of confidence to continue to play, perform on the court and show it.” Bullock is in his fourth season with the Pistons, averaging a career-best 12.1 points per game.
  • Mark Strotman examines where the Bulls can go after Portis’ ankle injury in a different story for NBC Sports, labeling the team’s various options for playing time during his absence. Portis’ injury could lead to extended minutes for Jabari Parker, time at the power forward position for Wendell Carter Jr., or a larger role for Chandler Hutchison.
  • The Pistons are working on building around Blake Griffin while staying within reasonable cap flexibility, Beard writes in his mailbag for the Detroit News. The team traded for Griffin last season, placing him alongside Andre Drummond to create one of the league’s most formidable frontcourts. Detroit is 15-14 and holds the No. 6 seed, owning a 4-2 record against other Central Division teams.

And-Ones: USA Basketball, Haddadi, Goodwin, Douglas, Griffin

USA Basketball has secured a spot in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 event, Sportando relays. The USA team captured a berth with a 78-70 win over Uruguay on Sunday. Venezuela and Argentina were the other teams from the Americas who also qualified for the FIBA tournament.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Center Hamed Haddadi and shooting guard Archie Goodwin will continue their careers in China, according to a pair of Sportando posts. Haddadi, 33, reached an agreement with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers. He last appeared in the NBA during the 2012/13 season with the Grizzlies and Suns. Goodwin, 24, signed with the Qingdao Eagles. He most recently played in the NBA during the 2016/17 season, when he saw action in a combined 15 games for the Nets and Pelicans.
  • Former NBA guard Toney Douglas has reached an agreement with the Turkish club Darussafaka, according to another Sportando report. Douglas previously played for another team in Turkey, Sakarya. Douglas, 32, most recently played in the NBA during the 2016/17 season with the Grizzlies when came off the bench for 24 games.
  • The blockbuster deal that sent Blake Griffin from the Clippers to the Pistons last winter has worked out surprisingly well for both sides, as Matt John of Basketball Insiders notes. Griffin has stayed healthy and played like an MVP candidate for the Pistons through the first 20 games this season, while Tobias Harris is the leading scorer for one of the league’s most prolific offenses, John continues. The draft pick the Clippers acquired was used on point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has displayed unusual poise as a rookie, John adds.

Central Rumors: Griffin, McDermott, Markkanen, Oladipo

When Blake Griffin was traded by the Clippers to the Pistons in late January, many people wondered how motivated and happy he would be leaving sunny L.A. for chilly Detroit. In fact, Griffin is glad he was dealt just months after signing a long-term max contract, as Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times details. Griffin is averaging 24.8 PPG, 9.9 RPG and 5.1 APG for the Pistons this season and has endeared himself to his teammates and people around the organization, Woike adds. “Yeah, I’m glad it happened,” Griffin told Woike. “I’m not saying I don’t miss certain people. There were some awesome fans that I got to know and I felt like I was very close with them. And there are some people you miss over there, but it was just time for a fresh start.”

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Pacers coach Nate McMillan vows to make better use of sharpshooter Doug McDermott, Mark Monteith of the team’s website reports. McDermott was signed to a three-year, $22MM contract as a stretch four over the summer. He is in the rotation but has averaged just 4.6 PPG this month while making 32.1% of his long-range attempts. He’s scored six points or less 13 times this season. “In the flow of the game you have to know who (the shooters) are,” McMillan said. “It’s like playing with a Reggie Miller. The bigs should look to get him open, it doesn’t have to be a set play. … Doug’s going to be OK. We’re going to get him better opportunities.”
  • Lauri Markkanen is close to returning from the right elbow injury that has sidelined him all season, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune and other media members. Markkanen has been medically cleared and will go through a full practice on Tuesday after participating in Monday’s non-contact morning shootaround. If he doesn’t have any setbacks, the second-year power forward will most likely return on December 4th.
  • The Pacers feel they are better equipped to handle situations when star Victor Oladipo can’t play, according to J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star. The team went winless in seven games without him last season. Oladipo missed his fourth consecutive game on Monday due to a right knee injury. He suffered the injury in the opening minutes against Atlanta on November 17th and the Pacers managed to win that game. They were 1-2 without him last week. “For us, it really doesn’t make a difference who’s out on the floor. We want to play the game the same way,” McMillan said. “Play the game with a lot of energy. Play the game together. We want that ball movement regardless of who is in the lineup.”

Central Notes: Griffin, Pistons, Love

With the Pistons getting off to a strong 4-1 start, all eyes have been on Blake Griffin‘s impressive performance as the team’s leader. As A. Sherrod Blakely writes for NBC Sports Boston, Griffin has reinvented his game to evolve with the modern NBA. Al Horford believes that Griffin has been playing like a MVP candidate so far with his ability to handle the ball, score in the post and create opportunities for others.

Griffin is averaging 28.4 points, 10 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game so far, knocking down 3 3-pointers per game. Most notably, Griffin dropped 50 points (including the game winning and-one layup) on the 76ers.

Blakely details just how impressed Horford is with Griffin’s start — the Celtics’ big man observed that Griffin seems more comfortable in his role now that he has had time to settle in with the team and city.

For the Pistons, they are hoping that a revitalized Griffin, better health for Reggie Jackson and a new coach in Dwane Casey will be enough to get the team back to the playoffs. So far, the results are promising as the Pistons look to build on their strong start and the MVP performances from Griffin.

There’s more from the Central division:

  • The Pistons have gone about building their roster in unique fashion with two big men leading the way. Rod Beard writes for The Detroit News that Celtics coach Brad Stevens recognizes and appreciates what Dwane Casey has done to successfully compliment and ride Griffin and Andre Drummond to early season success.
  • With the Cavaliers firing head coach Tyronn Lue, Marc Stein reveals for The New York Times that the team may also look to rest Kevin Love for an extended period in order to let him recover from recurring foot soreness. Love missed three preseason games with the injury and has struggled to play through it during the early stages of the regular season.

Eastern Notes: Nets, Bamba, Griffin

Joe Harris, who re-signed with the Nets on a two-year, $16MM deal this past offseason, is helping Brooklyn play a better offensive game, Tom Dowd of NBA.com writes. The team’s shooting has helped keep the paint open and entering Tuesday, the Nets led the league in drives per game.

“Just because the spacing that we have, even with Jarrett [Allen] being able to step out and pose a threat at the 3-point line to open stuff up, we’ve just got to do a better job making the correct reads where, the drive is there, obviously we’re taking it,” said Harris. “But if they’re not and they’re contested, especially against these heavy shift teams, we’ve got to get off it and move the ball quicker. Where we’ve gotten ourselves in trouble is getting in there, turning it over versus getting in there, making the right pass, making the simple pass and moving it from good shots to great shots.”

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Shabazz Napier is expected to make his debut for the Nets on Wednesday against the Cavs, Dowd relays in the same piece. “[Napier] looked good in practice yesterday, so that’s a good sign,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “Don’t expect big minutes from him, but we’ll build him up. I think he’ll be that sparkplug. I think it gives us something defensively. He creates turnovers. He’s a ball-pressure guy. He gets into guys. He’s fast. And offensively he can give you a punch and come off and get 10 points in 10 minutes. His experience, right? NBA experience. He’ll help us.”
  • The Magic envision Mohamed Bamba becoming Orlando’s version of Joel Embiid down the road, Sean Deveney of Sporting News writes. “I said to [team president Jeff Weltman],” Hammond recalled, “‘It’s going to be interesting to see in about five years from now.’ He’s not as naturally big and thick as Joel, but just see who he is five years from now. He’s going to look a lot different. We just have to have a lot of patience.”
  • Blake Griffin has emerged as a leader for the Pistons, Keith Langlois of NBA.com contends. Coach Dwane Casey applauded Griffin’s mental toughness after a recent win, comparing the power forward to Gary Payton, Kevin Garnett, and Dirk Nowitzki. Casey will likely have even kinder words for his star after Griffin put up 50 points on the Sixers on Tuesday, scoring the final bucket to win to the game.

Pacific Rumors: Ingram, Crawford, Shumpert, Rivers

Lakers forward Brandon Ingram felt he got off easy after receiving a four-game suspension for instigating a fight between his team and the Rockets on Saturday night, he told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk and Dave McMenamin and other media members. Ingram received the longest suspension doled out by the league but he thought it could be worse. Teammate Rajon Rondo and Houston’s Chris Paul also received suspensions. “Well, it was better than we expected,” Ingram said. “I’m happy it’s only four but I know I got to control my emotions a little better.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Veteran guard Jamal Crawford took only two shots in his Suns debut Saturday and that was by design, he told Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Crawford joined Phoenix on a one-year contract just before the season opener. “Missing training camp, missing preseason, you don’t want to come in and be ultra-aggressive,” he said. “You have a new team, you have a new coach and learning a new system so you don’t want to come and try to step on anybody’s toes. I’m sure the scoring part will come, but for me, I’m just trying to make the right play.”
  • Iman Shumpert feels a sense of satisfaction being back in uniform this season, according to Noel Harris of the Sacramento Bee. He was dealt to Sacramento by the Cavaliers at February’s trade deadline but didn’t suit up due to plantar fasciitis. He was bothered by a calf injury in training camp but was able to return for a preseason game. He then scored a team-best 26 points in the Kings’ first regular-season win over the Thunder. “Being able to play that preseason game, that was a different type of happiness for me after sitting out a year,” Shumpert said. “I joke around about it a lot, but I’m serious as a heart attack when I say it: I don’t wish that on anybody, not being able to play.” Shumpert needs to continue to produce, as he’ll enter the free agent market after making $11MM this season.
  • Doc Rivers doesn’t think he’d still be coaching the Clippers if the former star trio of Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan had remained with the team, as he told Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times“I needed the change. I wouldn’t have done this with the same group. I wouldn’t be here probably,” Rivers said. “We just needed change. We needed it and we just had to do it. We had to come to the conclusion we weren’t going to win.”