DETROIT – The Detroit Pistons needed Blake Griffin to carry a heavy load and he delivered with his most productive season.
The acquisitions of Derrick Rose and Tony Snell, growth from Luke Kennard and Andre Drummond’s offensive improvement give the Pistons more options, so they don’t need to lean on Griffin for as high a percentage of their scoring.
But a team off to a rocky 4-6 start desperately needs its All-Star forward back and Griffin said he will make his season debut Monday against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Little Caesars Arena (7 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit).
“I think it’s my job to fit into all that and find a way to help make those guys better,” Griffin said after practice Sunday. “Last season I felt like I had to take on more of a scoring role. I think this year we have guys who are primed to score the basketball a little bit more in a variety of different ways, so I don’t see that being as big of a role for me, as it is facilitating, picking and choosing times down the stretch.
“I’ve never been that guy that all I want to do is score. I think last year it was just put in my lap a little bit more. All those guys have taken another step and look comfortable. It’s my job not to take away from that. It’s my job to accentuate that and make it better.”
Griffin, who averaged 24.5 points in 2018-19, has been out with hamstring and knee soreness, after playing in the first two preseason games. He will be on a minutes restriction, but he’s not sure how much he will play.
“I leave that in our training staff and Coach (Dwane) Casey’s hands,” Griffin said. “Before the game I’ll know and put that in my mind and do what I can in those minutes.”
Drummond is performing at an All-Star level, averaging 21 points and 18 rebounds. Kennard is averaging 18 points.
Casey said it’s still to be determined if Kennard will continue to start or come off the bench when Griffin returns.
“Luke has been our Swiss army knife so far, been a point guard, a scorer; the only term we haven’t used is defensive stopper,” Casey said. “He’s been playing good basketball, shooting the ball well, making good decisions with his passes. Luke’s been doing a heck of a job, so we have to figure out where he best fits until we get whole.”
Griffin has watched games from the bench and has noticed a theme.
“I don’t think we communicate well,” he said. “Everyone’s kind of out there with their mouth closed and that’s not going to get it done.
“But again, I’ve also seen some good things, things you might not see when you’re playing, tendencies of where guys like (the ball), where they seem most comfortable, that will hopefully help when I come back.”
Casey cited quiet personalities.
“To yell your name lets your teammate know, ‘I’ve got your back, I’m coming to help,’ ” Casey said. “We’re not saying anything, so we just have to talk, say something and loud. I think there is some miscommunication where guards are saying, ‘I’m back, I’m back, I’m back,’ and they’re not back, so now the big hears that and he’s gone so our bigs have to be decisive in their calls, decisive in what they do if the ball’s open.”
The Pistons haven’t taken advantage of an easier early season schedule but haven’t drifted away from the pack of teams expected to compete for the final few playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
“The encouraging thing is we could have or should have won at least two more of those,” Griffin said. “We’ve been pretty shorthanded for the past week or maybe more. At no point do you want to drop games you feel like you should win, whether you’re healthy or not. We have very capable basketball players. Whether people are healthy or hurt, we have to go out and compete.”
No other injury updates: Casey said everybody participated in practice Sunday but had no updates on the status of Rose and Tim Frazier, who have missed the past four games.