AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Blake Griffin worked so hard to lift the Detroit Pistons to the playoffs, then couldn’t contribute as much once they were there.
That’s what coach Dwane Casey would like to avoid this season.
“I’ve said too many times, being from Kentucky, we rode him like a cheap horse last year,” Casey said at media day Monday. “If we didn’t, I don’t think we would have made the playoffs, because he was that special to us, but again, with addition of some other talented guys on our team, hopefully we don’t have to use him as much. I’m not going to put that in concrete, but I have to be smarter as far as the usage, because he takes a beating.”
Griffin averaged 35.0 minutes per game last season, his most since 2014-15, while also achieving the highest scoring average (24.5) of his career. He played 75 regular-season games, his most since 2013-14, but he missed two of the four games when the Pistons were swept by Milwaukee in the first round of the playoffs.
Griffin ended up having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, although he said that didn’t cut into his offseason work too much.
“I sort of consider this summer a healthy summer,” Griffin said. “It was kind of a four-to-six-week recovery. I think I was back on the court mid-June — so really only a couple weeks after I was last summer.”
Pistons executive Ed Stefanski said he expects the team’s depth to be improved.
“Not to be disparaging about players that were here, but I think it’s gotten considerably better when you put Derrick Rose in at that point guard position coming off the bench,” Stefanski said. “He can move Reggie Jackson over to the two. Derrick had a terrific year last year. I think he averaged 17 points a game, on fairly limited minutes.”
The Pistons signed Rose and forward Markieff Morris. They also signed Joe Johnson, who did not play in the NBA last season. Stefanski says Johnson will be competing for the 15th roster spot.
Stefanski acknowledged that big man Andre Drummond is eligible for a contract extension, but he didn’t say much more.
“We don’t talk about contracts or negotiations,” Stefanski said. “We really like Andre — the person and the player.”
Casey was hired by the Pistons before last season. He thinks the team got better offensively down the stretch.
“If you look at our statistics as the season went on from February 1st to April 1st, our offensive output — we were far more efficient,” Casey said. “We shot the ball better. We got the right shots, and as simple as it sounds, we made shots. I think we got used to the system that we implemented last year — the 3-point shooting system.”