Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons agree to buyout

NBA

Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin (23) looks to pass over Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

DETROIT (AP) — Blake Griffin’s time in Detroit is over, another significant step in a rebuilding process that has the Pistons at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

The veteran forward and the Pistons agreed to a contract buyout.

“I thank the Pistons organization for working together on an outcome that benefits all involved and I wish the franchise success in the future,” Griffin said Friday in a statement released by the team.

The Pistons announced last month that they would keep Griffin out of the lineup while resolving his future, a clear sign that the star forward could be on the way out. The Pistons also traded Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks last month.

Griffin, who turns 32 later this month, came to Detroit in a trade during the 2017-18 season. The question now is how valuable he might be to a contending team. He had a terrific 2018-19 season for the Pistons, helping them to the playoffs, but his health has been a concern in Detroit, just as it had been when he was with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Griffin has averaged 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists in the 20 games he’s played this season.

“As we stated from the beginning of our discussions with Blake and his representatives, our goal has been to facilitate a resolution for the future that maximizes the interests of both Blake and our team,” Pistons general manager Troy Weaver said. “We appreciate all of Blake’s efforts on and off the court in Detroit, have great respect for him as a player and a person and we wish him all the best in the future.”

Detroit is just 10-26 this season and had three first-round picks in last year’s draft. A couple of them — Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey — have shown some promise. The Pistons also acquired Jerami Grant in the offseason, and he’s averaging 23.4 points per game.

All of that means it makes sense for the Pistons to move on without Griffin. Detroit traded big man Andre Drummond around this time last year, and the team’s offseason reshuffling left Griffin as one of the few holdovers.

If healthy, Griffin can offer size, versatility and veteran leadership to a contender. He was traded to the Pistons just seven months after signing a $171 million, five-year contract to stay with the Clippers. A couple seasons ago, he averaged a career-high 24.5 points — but even in that 2018-19 campaign, Detroit was swept in the first round of the playoffs, and the team wasn’t able to build on that.

Once one of the league’s most exciting dunkers, Griffin’s game produces fewer highlights now, but he’s become a serviceable threat from 3-point range and can help a team in a number of ways. His injury problems might be less of an issue if there isn’t as much pressure on him to play heavy minutes.

“Blake has been a great representative for our franchise and for the city of Detroit,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said. “His work ethic and his approach to the game contributed a lot to our culture. He has been a consummate pro and we wish him continued success.”

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