Blake Griffin has been every part the Celtics wished after they signed him throughout coaching camp in October. That continued to be on show within the Celtics’ victory over the Hawks on Saturday night time.
But one play that stands out that exemplifies what Griffin means to this group, and what this chance has meant for the previous celebrity turned function participant, got here a month in the past.
It didn’t even actually present up within the field rating, both. On Feb. 15, because the Celtics had been working away from the Pistons late within the fourth quarter, Griffin put in a layup to place the C’s up 17. He acquired somewhat busy celebrating with the bench, however made up for it. As the Pistons had been coming again up the ground, Griffin deflected a go, and because the ball traveled out of bounds, he didn’t hand over on it.
It didn’t matter that it was the final recreation earlier than the All-Star break, and that he was only a few minutes away from occurring trip. Or that it was a lopsided recreation, with the consequence practically sealed. Griffin dove head-first for the ball, getting his left hand on it earlier than dropping it out of bounds and crashing into the Pistons bench.
It was a play that may have virtually actually been rewarded with a “Tommy Point” from the late Tommy Heinsohn. He was praised with a standing ovation from the TD Garden crowd.
Afterward, the play was the supply of some joking contained in the Celtics locker room. As Griffin stood in entrance of a throng of reporters, Jayson Tatum was close by at his locker when he shouted on the group: “Yo, make sure y’all ask him what was going through his mind when he dove from half-court!”
“And almost got it?” Griffin responded with a smile.
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla has made it a degree a number of instances this season to say how particular his workforce’s locker room is. Griffin is the embodiment of that. He was a No. 1 total choose, a celebrity with international-level fame, however has acknowledged that his abilities should not what they as soon as had been. He’s humbled himself to take a small function within the pursuit of a championship. He’s solely performed in 30 of the Celtics’ 68 video games. But when he does, he’s made a optimistic impression most of the time – whether or not it’s getting scorching from 3 or making common hustle performs.
He’s been the proper match inside this Celtics locker room.
“It’s one of the best locker rooms I’ve been around,” Griffin mentioned final month. “We had some really close teams in LA, but this team is right there, if not more. I think everybody comes in with a purpose every day, everybody works really, really hard. Everybody genuinely cares and enjoys seeing another person succeed. We’ve managed to keep that throughout this season, throughout highs and lows.”
Griffin’s function has grown recently with Robert Williams out of the lineup. He didn’t play in 5 of the primary six video games popping out of the All-Star break, however has now performed in three consecutive video games, principally on the expense of Grant Williams, who has fallen out of the rotation. But Griffin has proven he’s deserving. In Saturday’s win over the Hawks, he produced a handful of hustle performs. He drew a cost on Trae Young. He got here down with three offensive boards. On the final play of the third quarter, he made a block on the buzzer that fired up the Celtics bench.
“I just like his overall mental, physical, emotional toughness that he brings to our team,” Mazzulla informed reporters in Atlanta. “I think he just makes guys better when he’s on the floor.”
A decade in the past, when he was hovering nightly for spotlight dunks and turning into a perennial All-Star, it could be laborious to forecast Griffin’s profession evolving like this. Instead of dunks, he’s taking prices. He’s drawn 11 prices this season, which is 2 behind Derrick White, who has the workforce lead. But Griffin has performed 1,474 fewer minutes than White. And as an alternative of being a No. 1 possibility, he’s setting a tone by bringing intangibles on the court docket and contained in the locker room, the place he’s serving as an skilled affect and jokester. His minutes might not replicate it, however he’s turn into a cornerstone of this workforce in some ways.
“Blake is just a very smart, savvy player,” Al Horford informed reporters. “On the defensive end, he’s trying to impact the game in any way that he can. And then on offense, he’s finding his spots. Everything that he brings, he lifts our group. It’s just good to see him getting some minutes here and showing a different side that our group has.”
Robert Williams will miss his fifth consecutive recreation on Monday night time in Houston as he continues to get better from a left hamstring pressure. Mazzulla mentioned final week that the estimated timetable for his return could be 7-10 days for the reason that damage, so a return on Wednesday in Minnesota is feasible. … Payton Pritchard may even miss Monday’s recreation resulting from heel ache. The guard may miss the whole street journey.