‘I didn’t come here demanding a certain type of role’: Here’s why Blake Griffin chose to pursue a title and join the Celtics

"This is the kind of opportunity you couldn't pass [up]."

Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin of the Nets is fouled by Grant Williams of the Celtics. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Blake Griffin first established a relationship with Brad Stevens when Griffin played forward for the Pistons, and Stevens was still the Celtics‘ head coach.

At the time, Griffin made more than $30 million per year, and the Celtics couldn’t afford to pay him. But Griffin and Stevens struck up a rapport, and that rapport stuck with Griffin over the last two years.

So when Stevens and the Celtics came calling to see if Griffin wanted to join the team this season, Griffin had a lot of reasons to say yes.

“Boston has always been one of those places as an NBA player where I feel like guys have a pretty cool experience playing there,” Griffin said. “Beyond that, just the core they have, having Brad in the front office now, the coaches that they have — I actually played against Joe [Mazzulla] in college — this young core and the foundation they laid last year sets the table.


“This is the kind of opportunity you couldn’t pass [up].”

Griffin, for the record, noted that he beat Mazzulla in a double-OT game in college — something he made sure to bring up with the Celtics’ 34-year-old interim head coach right away.

After his deal with the Nets ran out, Griffin said he planned to spend time with his family and wait until after training camp to sign with a team. Still, when the opportunity presented itself, he had a good sense of what to expect from the Celtics. After all, he and the Nets got a close look at the Celtics in two consecutive postseasons. The Celtics and Nets split a pair of first-round series’ over the last two years, and while Griffin hit a bunch of 3-pointers against the Celtics this past season, he had trouble defending Jaylen Brown in particular.

“They took a big step as far as maturation [last year] and how seriously they took the game,” Griffin said. “Not that they didn’t before but to be a really good team, you have to take some big steps and they took those steps. It didn’t seem like they cared how they got it done, they just got it done. They were willing to outplay you, out-hustle you, and when a team with this much talent has that mentality, that’s really tough.”


Last season, Griffin led the league in charges taken — a category that included Derrick White and Marcus Smart in the top 10.

“We’re definitely going to have a competition,” Smart said earlier this week. “I already started with D-White. It’s definitely going to be great. We are going to challenge each other every day and you got three of the best charge takers in the game on the same team, it’s only going to help everybody else.”

Mazzulla, meanwhile, said he wasn’t involved in the Celtics’ discussions regarding Griffin, but he likes Griffin’s versatility on both ends — especially as a big who can keep the ball moving.

“He’s got great experience, played alongside great players, great coaches,” Mazzulla said. “Great basketball mind. He’s a big body for us that can help us do things on both ends of the floor.”

Griffin doesn’t have any illusions about his role. The Celtics have a championship-caliber team, and a big rotation that might not include him, especially when Robert Williams comes back.

But buying minutes for Williams and Al Horford could be crucial — Griffin joked that Horford has been in the NBA for 40 years now. His goal is simply to play a utility role on a team that could use his help.


“I didn’t come here demanding a certain type of role,” Griffin said. “It’s just to fill the gaps and help this team win a championship.”


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