I’m not going to even attempt writing a summary of how well Blake Griffin has played this season. If you’re looking for that, DBB already has plenty of articles by smarter writers than I. Not to mention the fact that you can now turn on ESPN, NBA TV, or open up Twitter to catch national NBA pundits praising his play. Tuesday’s magnificent 50 point, 14 rebound, six assist night was just confirmation of what we suspected in the first two games of the season: this is Blake Griffin’s team and the city of Detroit is getting behind him.
Granted it is only three games into the 2018-19 season, but the Pistons already offer hope in a way that is unlike any other pro Detroit sports franchise right now. To give the collective “us” some perspective, the Tigers just wrapped up their first true rebuild year, losing 98 games in the process, the Wings look to be in the same kind of situation (I’m not going to pretend to know hockey, all I know is that the Wings are young), and the Lions are...well the Lions, and despite some positive moves still look like a long shot in a crowded NFC North. Which brings us to this year’s Detroit Pistons.
To the untrained Pistons fan eye, this is a team that largely looks the same as last year. Sure, there’s a new head coach in Dwane Casey, who is preaching more three pointers and an open, flowing offense. Sure, we also have a new shadow government - er, I mean, front office situation with Ed Stefanski. But at the end of the day, it’s still Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, and Blake Griffin, but this is not the Blake you may have been expecting.
Blake Griffin looks focused, refreshed and determined in a way NBA diehards haven’t seen since the 2015 playoffs, when he averaged a cool 25 points, 12 boards, and six assists. Only this time he’s also our Chris Paul too, bringing the ball up, setting up offensive sets, and encouraging guys between plays. He’s a point forward that looks primed for May and we’re only in October. Yes I am way ahead of myself but who the hell cares. These types of performances don’t come around often.
Am I saying he’s the next local folk hero? The next Ben Wallace, Barry Sanders or Miguel Cabrera? Not yet. But in a city where wins have become few and far between, he’s offering fans something to get excited about.
After the Sixers game, Blake went on NBA TV with Isiah Thomas and Grant Hill for what essentially became a Detroit Pistons love fest. Zeke talked about his pride of seeing Blake in a Pistons uniform, Grant Hill threw out a Fishbones reference and for a moment I slipped into a coma. But when I came to, I caught Blake with the following quote. “We may not win every game, but if we come out and fight every night, the city will get behind us.” I was hooked. Sure, this is largely good media training and hyperbole, but it’s exactly the attitude and approach the Pistons need right now.
It’s more than just word, Blake Griffin’s mere presence on the floor is changing the entire makeup of the team. Ish Smith, who already was enjoying a bit of renaissance in Detroit, is looking like a perfect fit in Dwane Casey’s revamped offense. Andre Drummond looks like some pressure is off those shoulders, and games no longer NEED to start with post moves for Andre. And perhaps most importantly, it has transformed Reggie Jackson’s offensive role, from a ball pounding possessive point guard to an off-ball, always moving spot up shooter, who can still go create a bucket and get to the rim if the play really breaks down. I know most fans still are groaning about his late game performances against the Nets and Sixers, but give Reggie some credit for taking such major role changes in stride.
Now I’m not going to pretend this is sustainable. Blake still carries a heavy history of injuries, but even 50 games of this caliber may be all this team needs to be successful. Detroit is hungry for a winner to get behind, and it seems Blake is ready to answer the call.