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Blake Griffin is expected to make his Nets debut Sunday against the Washington Wizards and said he was so excited to play he didn’t get a great night’s sleep on Saturday.
“That’s probably my best indication that I was excited,” Griffin said after Sunday morning’s shootaround. “Played so many games and they all feel the same, but just coming here, new environment, new team and the excitement got to me a little bit, but I’ll be ready.”
Griffin has not played a game since Feb. 12 and sat out his last 10 games with the Detroit Pistons while the franchise sought the best route to part ways. The two sides agreed to a contract buyout, which paved the way for Griffin to sign a veteran’s minimum deal with a Nets team that already features James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant (who is working his way back from a hamstring strain).
Nets head coach Steve Nash has popularized the term “ramp-up,” as in Griffin has spent the past two weeks ramping up his activity level and conditioning to get himself in game shape. It’s a term Nash has also used to describe Durant’s road back to the floor, since the All-Star captain has not played since Feb. 13.
Griffin has been playing five-on-five and said he went through Sunday’s shootaround and felt great. He said the ramp-up has helped due to how long he spent off the floor.
“When I first got here, I had sort of an evaluation with our performance staff. I hadn’t played in basically four weeks by the time I got here, so their plan was just to sort of spend some time with our training conditioning staff, with our performance staff, and make sure I was in as good a shape as possible to put myself in the right position before I return to play,” he said. “I played some one-on-one, some two-on-two, three-on-three, a lot of running, so I feel a lot more confident than I did two weeks ago not having played in a month.”
Griffin has seen his numbers decline in recent seasons due to age, a losing situation in Detroit, and consecutive left knee surgeries that have impacted his mobility. He has maintained the knee is no longer an issue and said the ramp-up and his work with the Nets’ performance team was not specifically to strengthen it.
“They put together a plan, more so in terms of just my entire body. (The knee) hasn’t really been a main focus. I felt great when I got here,” Griffin said. “The four weeks that I was not playing, I had a lot of time to sort of get my legs back under me. It felt good to get in the weight room and sort of start that process.
“I don’t really have an injury, but yeah, they’ve done a great job of putting a plan together.”
Aside from his work with the performance team, Griffin says he’s been knee-deep in film, searching for where his opportunities will arise on the court. The Nets’ newest addition is a six-time All-Star just two seasons removed from averaging 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists for the Pistons but hasn’t come close to that level of production since the knee surgeries. The Nets don’t need Griffin for his offense: Harden, Irving and Durant will shoulder much of the load and, as he noted, make life easier for the others on the roster.
How Griffin matriculates into the Net defense could be what earns him minutes on a high-scoring team that hit its stride by getting stops, and he says he can help just by calling out what he sees.
“To help the defense? Just communicating. We do a lot of different matchups, switching, so making sure that as a big and somebody who can sort of guard some threes, fours and fives, I’m communicating those switches, helping fix when we kind of mess up here and there,” Griffin said. “That’s just sort of the things I’ve noticed from watching so far in everything we’ve gone through in walkthroughs and practice.”