The playoff races are well underway in the NBA, and things are very competitive in both conferences. It looks likely that only a handful of games will separate fifth from eighth in certain cases, and the margins between making and missing the playoffs will be small.
Most contenders have key figures who will have a big say in where their teams land. These aren’t always the obvious stars, but a key name who’s returning from injury or picking up the slack at the right time. Here are 10 key players who will have a big say in the playoff races.
10. Buddy Hield, G, Kings
Hield has had a breakout year this season, but he hasn’t always been in the good graces of coach Dave Joerger, much to the frustration of some other players. The Kings are very much in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, and they’ll need Hield to play fearlessly — and have the trust of his coach — down the stretch. If he can play to his capabilities — like when he made 53.4 percent of his threes in January — the Kings will have a huge weapon as they chase a playoff spot.
The Detroit Pistons have been wildly inconsistent this season, and some of the comments Blake Griffin has made recently about his teammates not focusing late in games has led to speculation that he wants to be traded. However, the star big man admits that is not the case.
After the Pistons lost to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday to fall to 21-28 on the season, Griffin was asked about some reports that he has informed the Pistons he wants a trade before next week’s deadline. He admitted he is frustrated with the way the team has been playing but urged people to “consider the source” of the rumors.
#Pistons Blake Griffin: "I am happy here and of course I’m frustrated. You should be frustrated – if you’re not frustrated, what are you doing playing basketball? Like Tom (Gores), I still believe in this team and we can turn this around and rattle off a couple wins." https://t.co/XE8DIxJZx2
The Pistons began the year 13-7 and had a record above .500 as of Dec. 19, but their play has fallen off significantly over the last month. Griffin recently gave an awkward postgame interview in which he criticized the team for not closing out games.
Griffin has had nothing but positive things to say about Detroit since he was traded by the Los Angeles Clippers, so there’s no reason to think his recent frustrations have to do with anything other than losing. While a trade can’t be ruled out, it seems highly unlikely.
Blake Griffin seems to have identified a problem that is costing the Detroit Pistons late in ballgames.
The Pistons went into the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans with a 79-70 lead. They were outscored 24-19 by the Pelicans in the fourth, but were able to hold on for a 98-94 win.
Following the game, Griffin cited a lack of focus at the end of games as being something the Pistons will need to improve upon.
Blake Griffin after the #Pistons escape New Orleans with a win: Nothing to be proud of, this is just masking our issue. Our lack of focus at the end of games has been awful.” Not a good time for Reggie Jackson to come and get in the way as Griffin makes his statement. pic.twitter.com/lYKrVE0Ntl
How about Reggie Jackson jumping in right as Griffin is criticizing the team’s lack of focus?
With last year’s NBA Coach of the Year Dwane Casey on board and a full year of Blake Griffin, expectations were higher for the Pistons this year than they had been heading into recent seasons. Those hopes have not yet been realized as Detroit is currently 21-26. However, due to the bottom of the Eastern Conference being so poor, the Pistons are only 1.5 games out of the conference’s eight seed for the playoff spot.
If the Pistons are going to claw their way into the postseason picture they will need to improve in several areas. Late-game focus would need to be one of those areas.
The suit said Cameron and Griffin were set to be married in 2017 but they called it off a month before after Griffin asked Cameron to sign a prenuptial agreement. He then supposedly took up a public affair with Jenner.
The two resolved their custody battle of their children, but it wasn’t until recently that the palimony suit was settled, according to The Blast.
Griffin’s relationship with Jenner fizzled out and he is now in his second season with the Detroit Pistons after previously being a lifelong Los Angels Clipper. Cameron, whose brother Jordan is a former NFL Pro Bowl tight end, also has a child with Matt Leinart.
Joe Ingles and Blake Griffin had a funny exchange in which Ingles wasn’t shy about telling Griffin exactly how he felt.
During the first quarter of Monday’s game between the Utah Jazz and Detroit Pistons, Ingles made contact with the back of Griffin. Griffin appeared to embellish the contact. It apparently worked because Ingles was called for an offensive foul.
As the two walked up the court, Ingles was shown calling Griffin a “flopper.”
It’s pretty clear that there are still some hard feelings from Blake Griffin toward the Los Angeles Clippers.
Griffin made his long-awaited return to Los Angeles on Saturday, and Jovan Buha of The Athletic noted that the Detroit Pistons forward clearly snubbed Clippers owner Steve Ballmer during pregame warmups.
As Blake finished his warmup, Steve Ballmer was on the sideline watching and waiting. When Ballmer saw Griffin finish, he started walking towards him. Blake saw Ballmer and sped up, running away to the Pistons locker room as Ballmer yelled “Blake! Blake!” with his hand out.
Griffin has made pretty clear over the past year that there is some lingering bitterness over how his trade went down, and he showed it in their meeting in Detroit last year as well. This sets the stage for what might be an awkward and frosty affair on Saturday afternoon.
Blake Griffin was traded away by the LA Clippers nearly a year ago, but some of the wounds still appear to be lingering.
In an in-depth piece that ran Tuesday on the All-Star big’s blockbuster move to the Detroit Pistons and subsequent adjustment, ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz revealed that Griffin has not spoken to any of the Clippers’ principals since being dealt. This includes president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank, who spoke with Griffin the morning of the trade to inform him of substantive discussions with Detroit and subsequently called Griffin upon the deal being finalized as well, only for Griffin to decline to answer. Also in that category are head coach Doc Rivers, who called Griffin ten minutes after Frank, and owner Steve Ballmer, who called later, with both attempts also going unanswered.
“I get it,” Griffin was quoted as saying. “Basketball is a business and they said what they had to say at the time, and that’s what I wanted to do. The only thing I wish is that [the trade] had gone down differently.”
Griffin, who will return to play the Clippers in Los Angeles for the first time since being traded, also said that he had no regrets about re-signing with the team two summers ago. He furthemore added that does not hold a grudge about their elaborate (and now notorious) “Clipper For Life” pitch.
The 29-year-old spent his first eight career seasons with the Clippers and helping springboard the franchise from laughingstock to one of the league’s top attractions. The trade that sent Griffin to Detroit last January netted the Clippers players like Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, and Boban Marjanovic, all of whom have aided their impressive run to the West’s No. 4 seed this season. Griffin, meanwhile, is averaging a career-high 25.3 points (plus 8.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game) on a Pistons team that is currently ninth in the East.
Griffin did already face the Clippers for the first time last February (albeit in Detroit), and the iciness over the trade was apparent then as well.
Blake Griffin achieved an unlikely quadruple-double in the Detroit Pistons’ 107-104 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night.
Griffin had a triple-double through three quarters of the game, but he added another category to the mix due to some poor play in the final quarter. The forward finished with 19 points on 4/13 shooting, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, and 10 turnovers in the game. He missed a three-pointer to tie at the end.
The 10 turnovers were the most by a Pistons player in nearly 17 years, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Blake Griffin is the first Pistons player with 10 turnovers in a game since Jerry Stackhouse on Jan. 25, 2002 against the Hawks.
When Blake Griffin was traded to the Detroit Pistons last year, the belief was that he was upset about the deal.
Griffin had just signed a long-term contract with the Los Angeles Clippers. He seemed excited about remaining with the team for the future and being a franchise cornerstone. His son was in Los Angeles, his social life was in the city, and that was the only NBA team for whom he’d played. Even if all that may be true, Griffin now says he is grateful for the trade.
“Yeah, I’m glad it happened,” Griffin told the Los Angeles Times’ Dan Woike. “I’m not saying I don’t miss certain people. There were some awesome fans that I got to know and I felt like I was very close with them. And there are some people you miss over there, but it was just time for a fresh start.
“I’m glad to be here.”
Griffin was able to spend the offseason trying to improve his game, which has shown through his ability to take and attempt long shots. He’s become a regular 3-point shooter and is making 39.6 of them this season — an impressive mark. His 25.3 points per game is a career-high. He even has the team in position to make the postseason.
Maybe the deal really was the best thing for his career.