Nets add Griffin as missing piece
Veteran forward signed to bolster Brooklyn's title run
Normally, adding Blake Griffin to a team that already boasts the likes of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving would turn the Big Three into the Fantastic Four.
But this version of Griffin, whom Nets general manager Sean Marks officially signed to one of the team’s veteran-minimum contracts Monday, will provide more of a missing piece to Brooklyn’s lineup rather than yet another bonafide NBA superstar.
“We’re fortunate to be able to add a player of Blake’s caliber to our roster at this point in the season,” Marks said in a team-issued statement after the 31-year-old power forward informed the GM that he was Brooklyn-bound.
Griffin is a six-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA Second Team selection after spending seven-plus seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers and the better part of the past four years with the Detroit Pistons.
The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Oklahoma City native was averaging 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 20 games for Detroit before becoming the latest addition to a team that is intent on delivering the Nets’ first-ever NBA championship and our borough’s first major pro sports title since 1955.
But the 2011 NBA Rookie of the Year and Slam Dunk Champion has seen his performance fall off of late after consistently rocking the rim en route to averaging better than 20 points and nearly nine rebounds per game during his decade-plus in the league.
Going nowhere in Detroit, where the Pistons are struggling with an Eastern Conference-worst 10-26 record, Griffin accepted a buyout, reported to be in the $13 million range, to get out of the remaining $56.5 million remaining on his contract with the Pistons.
Joining the All-Star triumvirate of Durant, Harden and Irving, Griffin won’t be asked to navigate the paint, where he established himself as one of the best pick-and-roll players in the sport alongside former Clippers teammate and current Nets center DeAndre Jordan.
Instead, he’ll likely soak up most of the backup center duties and provide some shooting production from beyond the arc as he will begin his Nets career Thursday night vs. Boston at Downtown’s Barclays Center averaging 32 percent from 3-point range this year.
“I’m sure he wants to win. If he’s passed up more money to obviously stay in Detroit, he wants to win and he wants to have an opportunity to play meaningful minutes and I’m assuming that’s one of the reasons why he came,“ noted Harden.
“Obviously, we know the athletic and high-jumping Blake, but as of these last couple years, he’s knocking down the three-ball a little bit better, the ball-handling is a lot better. He can be a great contribution to this team.”
As if the Nets needed more help after finishing the nominal first half of the campaign with 10 victories in their previous 11 games and a 24-13 overall record, just one-half game back of conference-leading Philadelphia.
Griffin also arrives at an opportune time as Brooklyn’s frontcourt has not been at full strength due to injuries to Durant, who has been out since Feb. 13 with a hamstring strain, and fellow veteran forward Jeff Green (shoulder).
“Blake is a versatile frontcourt player with a long track record of success in our league,” added Marks.
“And we’re excited about the impact he’ll make for us both on and off the court in Brooklyn.”
NOTHING BUT NET: Brooklyn’s All-Star weekend in Atlanta consisted of Durant continuing to sit out while Harden and Irving combined for 45 points during Team Durant’s 170-150 loss to Team LeBron. Irving had 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting to go with 12 assists, six boards and a pair of steals. Harden added 21 points and four helpers. It marked the first time the Nets had three All-Stars selected in the same year. “We don’t want to take that for granted, three guys on one team being All-Stars,” said Irving. “Obviously with K not being here it felt a little bit incomplete, but we need him to get healthy for the second half of the season what really matters. It takes a lot of, lot of hard work. I don’t think a lot of people know what it takes to be a professional athlete and to be distinguished as one of the best of the world to casual fans, to casual people that support the NBA, people that support basketball, get to see only glimpses of us sometimes, of the amount of commitment it takes to be great at anything, but especially at this game. It’s an honor to be able to put in work and reap the rewards, especially when you reap the rewards with your teammates. I know this will still go down in history, but we just don’t want to take this for granted.” … After they host the Celtics Thursday, the Nets will take on Griffin’s former teammates here in Downtown Brooklyn on Saturday night.
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