Blake Griffin

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.”

Central Notes: Griffin, Jackson, Leaf, Parker

After dealing with various injuries in recent seasons, Blake Griffin is healthy and looking to regain respect by leading the Pistons back to the playoffs this season. Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press writes about how Griffin’s game has evolved and adapted in recent seasons to account for his decline in athleticism. Gone are the nightly posterizing dunks, with a reliable 3-point shot and improved playmaking abilities in their place.

Ellis also details the injuries Griffin has suffered in recent seasons, as well as the work he put in over the offseason to improve his game and his durability. In 25 games with the Pistons last season, Griffin averaged 19.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game while knocking down 34.8% of his 3-pointers.

With Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson all healthy, the Pistons are hopeful that the trio can lead them back to the playoffs in the weakened Eastern Conference. While the Pistons struggled after trading for Griffin, they didn’t get a true look at how good they can be with a healthy team. With new head coach Dwane Casey leading the way, there is optimism throughout the organization.

There’s more from the Central division:

  • Speaking of Griffin and Jackson, Casey revealed that there is no minutes restriction for either player, according to Keith Langlois, the editor of the Pistons‘ website (via Twitter). This is a good indication that both players are fully healthy and in game shape to begin the season.
  • Following a “no comment” response from Jabari Parker when asked if he would accept any role given to him, Will Perdue of NBC Sports Chicago writes that Parker can only be a positive addition to the Bulls if he puts the team ahead of his individual goals and desires. Parker struggled throughout the preseason, but has an opportunity to rebound his value in Chicago this season.
  • Mark Montieth answered several Pacers-related questions in a mailbag for the team’s website. In it he addresses T.J. Leaf‘s potential role this season, with it likely being a 10th or 11th man due to the team’s depth and Leaf’s youth as the Pacers look to build on last season’s surprising success.

Central Notes: Jackson, Lopez, Dunn, Casey

The Pistons have been focused on returning to the playoffs after bringing in Dwane Casey as head coach and banking on a clean bill of health for players such as Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin. With Casey, the Pistons are getting a head coach that is focused on ball movement and off-ball actions in hopes of revitalizing the team’s offense, which ranked just 19th in the league last season.

As Keith Langlois writes for the Pistons’ website, such a focus on diversifying the offense may lead to someone other than Jackson leading the team in assists, which Casey is comfortable with. Casey even went further to express his desire for a player such as Griffin to lead the team in assists: “That’ll free Reggie up to get off of the ball, to move without the ball a little bit more. That means other players are cutting, moving, and we’ll be harder to figure out and predict and scout.”

Griffin is one of the better passers in the frontcourt, as he averaged 6.2 APG in his 25 games with the Pistons last season. Jackson has struggled to stay healthy in recent seasons, as he has played in a combined 97 games in the past two seasons.

Casey is also focused on implementing a more modern offense in Detroit, with an emphasis on playing at a faster pace and eliminating shots from the mid-range. So far, the result have been promising — 159 of the 173 total Pistons’ shots have either come from beyond the 3-point arc or inside the paint in their first two preseason games. A more modern offense that is heavy on ball movement and diverse playmaking could be the key ingredient for the club to return to the playoffs this season.

There’s more from the Central division:

  • Speaking of Casey, another difference that Pistons players have been getting used to is his calm demeanor on the sidelines. As Vince Ellis writes for the Detroit Free Press, the players have enjoyed Casey’s positive approach and the fact that he doesn’t direct outrage or disappointment on one player. For a team that is returning a large portion of the same roster, the change at coach may prove to make the largest difference this season.
  • Early returns for Brook Lopez‘s fit with the Bucks have been promising, as Jim Hoehn points out for The Associated Press. Lopez will provide a vast majority of his value on the perimeter as a floor-spacer to draw defenders away from the paint as Giannis Antetokounmpo looks to attack the rim. With the Bucks also adding Ersan Ilyasova and coach Mike Budenholzer, they are also looking to modernize their offense and become a true contender in the conference.
  • As he continues to build on a much-improved sophomore campaign in the league, Kris Dunn has impressed the Bulls (and specifically coach Fred Hoiberg) with his leadership. As Joe Cowley writes for the Chicago Sun-Times, Dunn’s solid play on the floor and control of the offense in preseason has been a bright spot for a Bulls team that is dealing with injuries and inconsistent defensive play.

Pistons Rumors: Drummond, Griffin, Jackson, Johnson

Pistons center Andre Drummond doesn’t plan to shoot a lot of threes but he’s thrilled that new coach Dwane Casey has given him the green light, as he told the Detroit Free Press. Casey believes if Drummond hits a couple of long range shots every game, it will create more space for everyone offensively. “The 3-point shot is something I’ve added six years ago,” he said. “I just never had a coach that allowed to me to shoot it. It’s something I’ve worked on consistently for a long time, so I guess now is my time to really showcase it.” Frontcourt partner Blake Griffin doesn’t want Drummond to stray from the basket too often.  “We still want to use Dre to his strengths because he’s one of the most dominant centers, one of the best finishers, one of the best rebounders,” Griffin said. “So it would be doing him a disservice to keep him away from the rim and doing the things he does best.”

We have more from the Pistons:

  • Both of Detroit’s top big men believe the team should set lofty goals. Griffin said homecourt advantage in the playoffs, at least for the opening round, should be the team’s regular-season aim. Drummond expects the Pistons to be serious contenders in the East. “The time is now,” he said. “We have everything we need to be great. There’s no reason why we can’t be a top team in the East or a top team in the NBA.”
  • Point guard Reggie Jackson (ankle), power forward Jon Leuer (knee) and shooting guard Luke Kennard (ankle) will be limited for the start of camp but all should be ready to play by opening night, according to senior advisor Ed Stefanski. “Those three are not in basketball shape,” Stefanski said.
  • Stefanski wouldn’t specifically address a question whether the team was interested in trading for Jimmy Butler but he noted the team has payroll limitations. However, he’s not averse to dealing for star players with expiring contracts. “That wouldn’t bother me,” he said. “It depends on what you have to give up.”
  • Small forward Stanley Johnson is eligible for an extension but the franchise is more focused on whether he’ll develop into a consistent performer. Johnson admits he still has a lot to prove. “(Owner) Tom (Gores) said, ‘I’m tired of hearing the word potential,'” Johnson said.

Pistons Notes: Jackson, Casey, Griffin, Wallace

Some time off has done a lot of good for Pistons guard Reggie Jackson, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. After missing 37 games with a severely sprained right ankle last season, Jackson mostly stayed away from basketball this summer. He talked with new coach Dwane Casey, watched the new assistant coaches conduct drills and spent time with teammates, but he didn’t subject the ankle to the stress of competitive basketball.

“Probably didn’t heal the way everybody thought it might once we had time off,” Jackson said. “Just haven’t been able to get on the court, but been doing everything I can to get healthy.”

Jackson didn’t need surgery, but he did undergo a process that he described as similar to the platelet-rich plasma injection he had on his knee two years ago. He said the rest has been good for the ankle, and there’s now a “night and day” difference compared to last year.

There’s more tonight out of Detroit:

  • Jackson is also touting the new system that Casey brought to Detroit, relays Nolan Bianchi of The Detroit News. During a public appearance today, Jackson said the abundance of wings on the Pistons’ roster will help with the transition to the new approach, which is based on quick ball movement and 3-point shooting. “Playing in this system, this new type of flow is going to take us some time to adjust,” Jackson said. “But I think it’s something that, as it shows promise for fans that the pieces can work well within what coach does, it’s going to be about getting acclimated, getting trust.”
  • Casey is impressed by the thorough nature that Blake Griffin takes to offseason workouts, Langlois adds in a separate story. Casey called Griffin a “leader by nature” and will be counting on him to assume a larger role in his first full season in Detroit. “Like [former coach/executive] Stan [Van Gundy] said last year, him coming in mid-season like that is almost impossible to come in and establish himself as a physical leader or leader by example or by your words,” Casey said. “He’s done a lot of things as far as this summer organizing workouts in L.A. and doing different things to show his leadership.”
  • Former Pistons star Ben Wallace has taken on a front office role as a part owner of the G League Grand Rapids Drive, writes Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Wallace is returning to the game after several years away and hopes to eventually land a role with an NBA team. “I’m pushing all of my chips into the middle of the table,” Wallace said. “I definitely want to learn the business side of basketball. I’m working with a great partner in [Drive owner] Steve Jbara, who is teaching me a lot about the business side of basketball. I’m working guys out, I’m having executive meetings, I’m selling tickets, I’m doing the whole nine.”

Pistons Notes: Griffin, Rookies, Johnson, Bullock

There’s a good chance that Blake Griffin can return to elite status after a healthy summer and a few months of working to develop chemistry with Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Griffin played 25 games for the Pistons after being acquired in a trade with the Clippers, and although his scoring and rebounding numbers declined from where they were in L.A., Griffin averaged a career-best 6.2 assists per game after coming to Detroit.

Beard also states that he doesn’t expect Griffin to be among the first players moved if owner Tom Gores decides to break up the team. Griffin signed a max extension with the Clippers last summer and is owed $141.6MM over the next four years, although the final season is a player option. That type of contract would be difficult to trade, Beard notes, and tough to get anything of value for.

There’s more today out of Detroit:

  • Dwane Casey’s history of giving minutes to young players in Toronto could be good news for Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown, but they’ll still face a challenge in cracking a talented rotation, Beard states in the same piece. The Pistons sent two second-round picks to the Sixers for the 38th pick in this year’s draft, which they used to grab Thomas, a shooting guard who specializes in defense. They took Brown, a wing who can also play the point, four picks later. Both were adequate but not overly impressive during Summer League, and Beard believes there will have to be injuries for either to get regular playing time as rookies.
  • The Pistons brought in Glenn Robinson III as insurance in case Stanley Johnson receives a huge offer sheet as a restricted free agent next summer, Beard adds. Detroit is already near the projected cap for 2019/20 and may not be willing to go into the luxury tax to keep Johnson.
  • Reggie Bullock‘s 3-point shooting prowess should keep him in the starting lineup, even though the Pistons’ coaches are strong believers in Luke Kennard, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Bullock, who shot a sizzling 44.5% from 3-point range last year, will be a free agent next summer.

Central Notes: Pistons Lineup, Griffin, Smith, Paxson

Determining the two starters who will join Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson in the lineup is one of the things to watch for during the Pistons’ training camp, according to Keith Langlois of the team’s website. Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard are the three major candidates for those two slots. Jon Leuer, Henry Ellenson and Zaza Pachulia will vie for the role of first big man off the bench, though Leuer’s status for training camp is uncertain due to recent knee surgery, Langlois adds.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Having Griffin as the focal point of their offense for a full season has created optimism around the Pistons franchise, Ansar Khan of MLive writes in his latest player profile. The Pistons had trouble incorporating Griffin into the offense following the blockbuster trade with the Clippers in late January. But he has developed his all-around game and become a better 3-point shooter and passer, Khan continues. New coach Dwane Casey plans on putting the ball in his hands more often, Khan adds.
  • Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith was issued a desk ticket for misdemeanor criminal mischief after he allegedly tossed a fan’s cell phone into a construction site on July 26, according to an ESPN story. Smith spoke to police in New York City on Friday about the allegation and he will appear in Manhattan Criminal Court later this year.
  • Jim Paxson’s title with the Bulls has been changed from director of basketball operations to director of pro personnel, the team announced in a press release. The Bulls also promoted Brian Hagen to associate GM, Steve Weinman to assistant GM and and Miles Abbett to manager of minor league scouting and analytics.

Central Notes: Stephenson, Parker, Stefanski, Griffin

Lance Stephenson has left the Pacers again, but just like last time it may not be forever, writes Dana Benbow for The Indianapolis Star. Stephenson, who signed a one-year deal with the Lakers this summer, was asked about a possible return during a party he threw Wednesday to say goodbye to Indianapolis.

“Oh, of course. This is home. Of course,” he responded. “I would always want to come back here.”

Stephenson was among Indiana’s most productive reserves last season, appearing in all 82 games and posting a 9.2/5.2/2.9 line. His previous stints with other teams — the Hornets, Clippers, Grizzlies, Pelicans and Timberwolves — produced mostly disappointing results.

“We stayed in constant communication with him,” team president Kevin Pritchard said. “At the end of the day, Lance gave us some great years. We love Lance. We love Lance on the court, we love Lance off the court.” 

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Mike Budenholzer may be having “buyer’s remorse” over taking the Bucks‘ head coaching job after the loss of free agent Jabari Parker, suggests Gery Woelfel of WoelfelsPressBox in his latest podcast. He adds that the entire organization was counting on Parker to stay and never expected him to get an offer in the $20MM range like the Bulls gave him.
  • The Bucks are still hoping to make a deal before the season starts, Woelfel adds in the same discussion. He names John Henson, Malcolm Brogdon and Tony Snell as the players most likely to go, but says Eric Bledsoe has also been mentioned as a trade candidate.
  • Ed Stefanski has made a lot of progress in his first 100 days as a senior advisor to the Pistons, notes Chris Schwegler of NBA.com. The most significant moves were the hiring of reigning Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, adding Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown through the draft and signing free agents Glenn Robinson III, Jose Calderon and Zaza Pachulia.
  • Blake Griffin is looking healthy during his summer workouts at UCLA, relays Kurt Helin of NBC Sports. A knee injury limited Griffin to 58 games last year between the Clippers and Pistons, and he hasn’t played more than 67 in a season since 2013/14.