After Blake Griffin's return to Detroit as a member of the Brooklyn Nets, it became increasingly evident that a portion of the Pistons fanbase no longer adored their former All-Star. Blake, who has been embracing the role of antagonist throughout his entire career, was not out of character in this matchup against his former team.
In his first game against the Pistons since agreeing to a buyout with them, and subsequently joining the Brooklyn Nets, Blake put up 17 points in 20 minutes off the bench. Two of these points came on an alley-oop from James Harden that Blake threw down before running back up the floor yelling, "I still got it!"
The emotions of that game had been brewing since midway through the 2nd quarter when Pistons' rookie Isaiah Stewart was ejected for elbowing Griffin in the face. There was a reduced capacity crowd in Detroit that evening, but even amongst the scattered fans, some faint boos could be heard that were likely directed at Blake.
Since that game, Blake Griffin went on to finish out the season with Brooklyn, and played very well in his 26 regular season games as a Net. While Blake's all around game improved after leaving the Pistons and joining the Nets, some Detroit fans seemed to be more interested in one thing in particular: How often Blake dunked.
In Blake's 20 games with the Pistons last season, he did not dunk once; however, he threw down numerous slams in his time with the Nets. This created a narrative amongst the Pistons fanbase that he was disinterested in Detroit, potentially costing them a chance at trading him. Blake has remained relatively quiet on this situation since arriving to Brooklyn, but he finally broke his silence on a recent podcast.
On a recent edition of Barstool's "Pardon my Take" podcast, Blake Griffin joined the show to open packs of basketball cards. After looking at a 2018-19 Blake Griffin card, the year he was an All-Star and All-NBA selection, Blake made some comments seemingly directed towards the Pistons fans who are mad at him.
After reading the back of his own basketball card, Blake said, "That must have been the 2018-19 season when I was an All-Star, All-NBA, I dunked a few times, played in the playoffs injured, but ya... I'd hate me too Detroit." Blake's stated achievements during that 2018-19 season were all accurate. He did indeed make the All-Star team, was in fact selected to an All-NBA team, played in the playoffs on a torn meniscus, and dunked a total of 37 times; however, that season seems to be skipped over by the Detroit faithful who hold animosity towards the best player they've had in years.
The argument from those who choose to dislike Blake, despite him giving Detroit the best season of his career just months after agreeing to be a Clipper for life, is that his perceived lack of effort towards the end of his Pistons tenure cost the team a chance at getting something back for him. As the Pistons began trending towards a rebuild, and Griffin kept getting older, the two were no longer on the same timeline. Because of this reality, a divorce was imminent; however, the logistics were complicated.
At the time of his buyout with the Pistons, Blake was still owed $75M on the deal he initially signed with the Clippers. Would the Pistons really have been able to move that contract even if Griffin was playing the way he did in Brooklyn? Probably not.
Blake was fantastic in his time with the Nets; however, he was simply a star in his role. After playing on a torn meniscus in the 2019 playoffs, Blake sacrificed nearly all of the athletic ability that remained from his days as a high-flyer. Even at his current peak, which is likely what he showed in Brooklyn, Blake is currently best suited as a role player.
Blake did not show up to Brooklyn and become the 2014 version of himself that finished 3rd in MVP voting. In his 26 regular season appearances with the Nets, 16 came off the bench. Blake averaged a career-low 21.5 minutes per game with the Nets; however, as previously stated, this is the role that fits him best at this stage in his career.
To assume that any team would take on $75M in a trade for a role player, would simply be incorrect. Blake Griffin fit in perfectly with the Nets, but nothing he did in Brooklyn would have compelled a team to trade for him and his $75M contract. Instead, Blake gave the Pistons $13.3M back in order to complete the buyout, and the two went their separate ways. Blake got to join a contender, which was the best move for his career, and the Pistons got to advance in a new direction while saving $13.3M. That certainly does not fit the narrative that Blake did the Pistons dirty.
As it pertains to Blake's perceived lack of effort during his final days as a Piston, there is no doubt that he did not approach those games with the same intensity he played with in Brooklyn. While this is true, if both Blake and the Pistons knew a trade was unlikely, then Blake preserving his health while awaiting a buyout was the right move. The buyout worked well for Blake, but also the Pistons, who got to continue their pursuit of the first overall pick while saving $13.3M in the process.
Just months after agreeing to be a Clipper for life, Blake Griffin was shipped to Detroit. He then gave the Pistons the best regular season of his career, battled in the playoffs on a torn meniscus, and gave back $13.3M in his departure. This is what should be remembered about Blake's time in Detroit, not his final 20 games while awaiting an inevitable divorce.