Who would have believed when Sean Marks took over as Nets general manager in 2016 that Brooklyn eventually would become a sought-after destination for many of the league’s top free agents? But that is exactly what has happened.
The trend continued Monday when the Nets formally announced the signing of six-time All-Star forward Blake Griffin after he negotiated a buyout with the Pistons and cleared waivers Sunday to become a free agent.
"We’re fortunate to be able to add a player of Blake’s caliber to our roster at this point in the season," Marks said in a prepared statement. "Blake is a versatile frontcourt player with a long track record of success in our league, and we’re excited about the impact he’ll make for us both on and off the court in Brooklyn."
As part of his buyout, Griffin gave back $13.3 million to the Pistons to become a free agent. His cost to the Nets is the $1.2 million veteran’s minimum, a bargain-basement deal that makes this signing low-risk.
Teams: Clippers, Pistons
2020-21 stats: 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 36.5% shooting
Career stats: 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 49.5% shooting
Adding the 6-9 Griffin to a cast that already includes current All-Stars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden and Griffin’s former Clippers teammate, DeAndre Jordan, was a no-brainer even though Griffin, 31, is past his prime and his skills have declined sharply.
Although the signing was not yet official when Harden spoke with the media after the All-Star Game, he agreed to comment on the Griffin signing. "I’m sure he wants to win," Harden said. "If he’s passed up more money to obviously stay in Detroit, he wants to win and he wants to have an opportunity to play meaningful minutes. I’m assuming that’s one of the reasons why he came.
"Obviously, we know the athletic and high-jumping Blake, but as of these last couple years, he’s knocking down the three-ball a little bit better, the ballhandling is a lot better. He can be a great contribution to this team . . . We are excited to have him on this Brooklyn Nets team."
Griffin, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, sat out his rookie year with a knee injury. In 11 seasons, he has averaged 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists and shot 49.5% from the field and 33.1% from three-point range, but those numbers declined this season. He is averaging 12.3 points and shooting 36.5%, including 31.5% from three-point range.
In his prime, Griffin was known for his athleticism and spectacular dunking ability, but he has not dunked once this season. He played only 20 of the Pistons’ 36 games this season, missed the last 10 before the All-Star break and has not suited up since Feb. 12. During the 2019-20 season, he was limited to 18 games because of a left knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery before the season and then a second procedure in January 2020 that shut him down.
Still, Griffin can fill a significant role off the bench as a power forward or, more likely, a small-ball center. Suddenly, the Nets’ frontcourt depth is restored by adding Griffin to Jordan, Nic Claxton and Jeff Green, not to mention the anticipated return of Durant, who missed the final nine games before the All-Star break with a strained left hamstring.
The Nets (24-13), who won’t practice until Wednesday, will resume play against the Celtics on Thursday night at Barclays Center.