By: Will Burchfield
LeBron James had just woken up from a nap on Monday evening when he heard Blake Griffin had been traded to the Pistons.
At first, James said, he “was in a little bit of shock.” That shock soon turned to disappointment for Griffin.
“He spent his last nine years there (in Los Angeles). He just signed a multi-year deal there this summer, so that’s unfortunate,” James told reporters Tuesday morning, via Cleveland.com, prior to the Cavs taking on the Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. “But that’s the business side of it. … It works both sides, though. It’s the business.”
The Clippers signed Griffin to a five-year, $173 million contract last June on the heels of an elaborate free-agent pitch in which they sold him on becoming a Clipper for life. Griffin was so wowed by the team’s presentation he cancelled meetings with the Suns and the Nuggets.
Seven months later, the Clippers shipped him out of town. To James, it’s representative of the NBA’s double standard when it comes to loyalty.
“When a player gets traded, it’s (the team) was doing what’s best for the franchise. But when a player decides to leave, it’s, ‘He’s not loyal. He’s a snake. He’s not committed.’ That’s the narrative of how it goes. I definitely know that firsthand,” James said.
Griffin, who won’t make his Pistons debut until Thursday or Saturday, took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to reflect on the trade.
“From being a No. 1 pick, to Lob City, to six straight playoff appearance, I am so proud to have been a part of the success of the Clippers organization,” he wrote. “L.A. has been my home since I started in the league and I will be forever grateful to the city for embracing me and supporting me. To the fans, you have been awesome every step of the way. Thank you for your years of support.
“Now I’m ready for the next chapter, getting to work and helping the Detroit Pistons make a run in the Eastern Conference.”
Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy called Griffin on Monday night and said the five-time All-Star sounded excited for the opportunity at hand.
“When I talked to him last night he had the day to digest, but he was very good on the phone. He knew more about us than I thought and was talking about being eager for the challenge, ” Van Gundy said. “He knows where we are and that we haven’t been playing well. I think he wants to come in and help us get that changed.”
Entering play Tuesday night, the Pistons are 2.5 games out of a playoff spot with 34 games to go. They’ve lost eight straight and 12 of 15 since Reggie Jackson went down with an ankle injury in late December.
Griffin is one of only five players in the NBA averaging at least 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game. The others are James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and DeMarcus Cousins, the latter of whom is done for the season.
Cavaliers coach Tyron Lue believes Griffin is a good addition for the Pistons.
“Of course Blake can absolutely help this team,” he said, via Cleveland.com. “You have a perennial All-Star, great passer, can push it in transition, can post. Improved his jump shot, so it was definitely a good trade for Detroit.”