LOS ANGELES – In a long-awaited revenge match against his former team, Blake Griffin punished the Los Angeles Clippers in every conceivable way Saturday: thinning three times, throwing hammers, hitting the deck for loose balls and inviting chippy exchanges. But he swore that the only message he sent during the game did not come in advance.
The five-fold power-forward of the Detroit Pistons – who told reporters that he had no contact with the front office of Clippers since it was abruptly traded a month ago this month – went home with a game high of 44 points and a 109 -104 victory on the road. Afterwards, Griffin was adamant that a viral video that seemed to show him that he was ignoring a handshake attempt by Clippers owner Steve Ballmer was not a deliberate distraction from his former boss.
"For nine years, once I've finished my shooting practice, I'll make sure there's a path and I'll walk to the locker room," Griffin said. "I do not stop running, many of you have seen me do that before, I do not change that for anyone, so to tweet something like that, I thought it was a bit of a bull." That was it. Every game I've done this, how long. "
Still, Griffin's constant frustration of being blindfolded by the blockbuster – after he had spent his first eight NBA seasons in LA – was evident. When Griffin asked for Clippers Coach Doc Rivers immediately, he only said: "He is no longer my coach."
Would he shake hands with Ballmer, the irritable former Microsoft CEO and the Clippers owner since 2014, as a do-over?
"I'm honestly not here to answer hypothetical questions," Griffin said bluntly.
The Clippers have contributed to making fun, welcoming Griffin with an extensive tribute video. The crowd at the Staples Center greeted him with a standing ovation, and his highlight games were scattered throughout the night.
Nevertheless, L.A. had the wrong end of the full Griffin experience all afternoon. He started warmly and scored 15 points in the first quarter to become the first Pistons player since Jerry Stackhouse in 2001 to count several 40-point matches in the same season. Griffin fought through regular double teams and added eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block. He shot 13-23 off the field, drilled five three-pointers, threw himself into 14 free-throw attempts and seemed to enjoy some heated talks from chest to chest with Clippers guard Patrick Beverley.
At the buzzer, Griffin and Beverley were in a final discussion before both teams went their separate ways. Griffin landed in the Pistons dressing room and dedicated high-fives to every team member. Later there was fun to hear from the dressing room.
"I thought it meant a lot to Blake," said Pistons Coach Dwane Casey, who praised Griffin as a cultural changer for a Clippers franchise who was the first to select him in the design in 2009. "The most important thing was that his teammates were enthusiastic about him."
Both the Clippers and the Pistons have reason to be satisfied with the Griffin trade, which Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley and Boban Marjanovic sent from Detroit to LA The Pistons, who are in the mix for only their second & # 39; postseason & # 39; appearance in the last decade, they have their most marketable star in years. Griffin averages 24.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists and is on track for his first all-star appearance since 2015.
We're glad we have it, & # 39; said Casey about Griffin. "He is the basis of our program in the future, and tonight he showed how he plays on an all-pro – not all-star – all-pro level."
Meanwhile L.A. remains in the fiercely controversial playoff photo of the West and Harris is an all-star candidate. Ballmer and his front office also dream of allowing several free stars to land in 2019 after the last four years of the five-year contract with $ 171 million from Griffin.
Griffin's trailing resentment about the mechanics of trade is not surprising. L.A. had executed him during the summer of 2017 with a "Clipper for Life" field and a mock jersey retirement. Only seven months later he was shipped to Detroit with little warning. On Saturday he recognized the olive branch of Clippers and he sounded ready to get past the back and forth drama.
"It was cool, man, really cool," Griffin said about the tribute video. "To be so welcome again, it means a lot, I really appreciate all these fans here, the next time you come here, [the attention and hype] will of course not be the same. It's nice to let the game end. "
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