LAS VEGAS — Blake Griffin came back to Brooklyn to finish unfinished business, to claim the championship the Nets are convinced they could’ve and should’ve won last season.
And he’s confident his heavily favored team can do just that.
“Yeah, I think so. I think so. Obviously there’s a lot of work to do, a lot of work to be done. Can’t take anything for granted. But I like our team. I like the guys we have, I like our coaching staff, I like everything we’ve put together. So, yeah, I believe in us,” said Griffin, that belief driving him to sign a one-year veteran minimum deal to return to the Nets and get that title won.
“It was a no-brainer for me … that was a conversation we as a team felt like we obviously didn’t accomplish what we wanted. You can say injuries, but every team had injuries. So we feel like there’s definitely unfinished business. There’s something bigger that we want to achieve, and I still want to be a part of that.”
Holding onto Griffin kept the Nets’ starting lineup intact and softened the blow of losing Jeff Green to the Nuggets, whose leadership Griffin praised and said he’ll have to replicate.
It should be noted that unlike Green — who had been on five straight minimum deals — Griffin was due $29 million this upcoming season from his Detroit buyout. Having already earned generational wealth, he was free to make his basketball choices about, well, basketball.
“Yeah, there were [other suitors],” Griffin said. “But especially talking to guys … I had a conversation with Jeff and I talked to other guys who’ve been in different situations and not being in the same spot multiple years. It’s always — I don’t want to say a ‘guessing game,’ because you can get a pretty good feel for how teams are going to work — but you never know.
“This is a situation I was comfortable in, so a lot of those other offers didn’t necessarily [appeal], just going to make more money or going to a new spot for maybe a bigger role wasn’t really a thing. It’s a thing where I know this situation, I know what I can do with this team, I know my role with this team and we still left the season with sort of a bad taste in our mouths.”
That taste just got even more bitter after watching the Bucks — whom the Nets took to overtime in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinals matchup, despite the absence of Kyrie Irving and debilitation of James Harden — cruise to the title.
“Obviously not being at full strength hurt us,” Griffin said. “It’s weird watching us take them to seven games and being banged up, and after that they didn’t like necessarily handle everybody easily but won in six games, four straight on the Suns. So it’s always tough.
“So it’s just more motivation to come back and be more focused, pay more attention to detail, get another crack at it.”
Griffin said he’ll be better this time around for a host of reasons. He knows his role (pick-and-pop, making decisions off of a roll). And he’ll benefit from his first rehab-free offseason since 2017.
“I can’t explain how big it is to have a summer where you finish the season, you take a couple weeks off and you’re right back working out,” Griffin said. “I haven’t had that.”
General manager Sean Marks said Griffin’s impact extends off the court.
“[Everybody] saw what he did on the court, the intangibles he brought, the physical presence that he is … the rejuvenation of how he played. So it’s a credit to Blake, a credit to our performance team,” Marks said. “But it’s really the things in the locker room with Blake, a lot of the things that go on behind the scenes with just who he is.
“It speaks volumes when a player like that could’ve easily gone to a multitude of other places and decided, ‘There’s unfinished business here. I want to do something special in Brooklyn.’ To have a guy like that buy in certainly sends the right message to the younger guys and the whole team.”
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