Blake Griffin admits he never imagined wearing a Detroit Pistons uniform. Griffin re-signed with the Los Angeles Clippers last summer but finds himself in the Midwest after a blockbuster deal that included six players and two draft picks.
"Shocked is a good way to put it," Griffin said. "I didn't know anything. I found out pretty much when everybody else found out."
Griffin wasn't allowed to practice with his new team on Wednesday because all players involved had to complete their physicals. But he's expected to make his Pistons debut against the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday.
Everyone around the franchise seems re-energized by the addition of Griffin, a five-time All-Star power forward who joins forces with center Andre Drummond, who was just named an All-Star replacement.
"A monster," Griffin said of Drummond. "I got the opportunity to play with DeAndre Jordan for many years. Andre is that (type of player but) he's bigger and more physical. I'm excited about that development, that growth and hopefully I'll be able to help him. I've been a fan of a lot of the guys on this team for a long time."
The Pistons played with a shorter bench on Tuesday but still broke their eight-game losing streak by defeating Cleveland, 125-114. Third-year forward Stanley Johnson, whose role will expand with forward Tobias Harris and shooting guard Avery Bradley going to Los Angeles, scored a career-high 26 points. Drummond had a huge game with 21 points, 22 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and three blocks.
Detroit (23-26) saw its playoff prospects slipping away during the slide. Griffin believes he can get the Pistons in the postseason for the second time in three years.
"I look at it as a big opportunity for us to really make a push these next 2 1/2 months and really solidify ourselves in the Eastern Conference," he said.
The Grizzlies (18-32) are expected to be active before the trade deadline for very different reasons. They're looking to acquire assets with an eye toward next season.
Memphis benched guard Tyreke Evans (19.5 points per game) against Indiana on Wednesday amid trade discussions. Evans has an expiring contract. The Grizzlies lost without him, 105-101, despite a combined 47 points from Wayne Selden and Marc Gasol.
"It's hard to be honest, because obviously, everybody has their own situation and what not. The guys that have been out there, the names that have been out there, they're doing a great job," Gasol told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "I believe if you're trying to be a good team and building that for next year, you will need some of those players. You can't worry about how much they're going to make or how much we won't be able to afford guys. I think sometimes you got to let it play out and convince them that this is the right place to be."
The Grizzlies will play the rest of the season without point guard Mike Conley, who opted for season-ending surgery on his injured left heel, which has nagged him for years.
"We literally did every, single thing the last three years to alleviate the pain," he told the Commercial Appeal. "I did a decent job last year, but this year seemed to be too much for me. I didn't want to have to continue with this cycle. Hopefully, this is the answer."