Blake Griffin Was Told He’d Be an LA Clipper for Life Mere Months Before Being Traded to the Tanking Detroit Pistons

Blake Griffin is one of the best dunkers in NBA history. He established himself as such during his eight-year career with the Los Angeles Clippers before being mercilessly traded away to the rebuilding (tanking) Detroit Pistons.

At the time, the trade was justified due to the crossroads that the Clippers were facing after failing to win an NBA Finals (or even reach one for that matter) with the trio of Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan. The organization needed to undergo some serious change. We now know that they were able to acquire Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. However, at the time, it was unclear which direction the Clippers were headed.

For Griffin, the whole experience was incredibly confusing and frustrating.

The LA Clippers lied to Blake Griffin before trading him

Blake Griffin playing for the LA Clippers.
Blake Griffin | Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Following the conclusion of the 2016-17 season, Griffin was a free agent. The veteran power forward was coming off a strong season in which he averaged 21.6 points per game, making re-signing him a priority for the Clippers.

The Clippers’ free agency pitch to Griffin was elaborate. In fact, it was almost too elaborate. The team organized a massive fake jersey retirement for Griffin at the Staples Center, repeatedly leaning on the idea that he was a “Clipper for life” and would retire in LA.

The following is from Zach Lowe’s ESPN article on the over-the-top offseason pitch:

When Griffin arrived at Staples Center for his free-agency pitch meeting on July 1, he found the Clippers had erected something of a maze for him with temporary walls. Griffin walked his 3-year-old son, Ford, through the art gallery-style corridors, and found photos hanging at each turn: Griffin on his green Huffy bike with his brother, Taylor, when they were kids; Griffin playing in college; Griffin as a Clipper.

The maze spit Griffin out onto a couch overlooking the Staples Center court, above the lower bowl. Crowd noise pumped in. The team’s public address announcer declared the Clippers were retiring Griffin’s number. Team employees raised an actual banner into the rafters — a vision of the future they wanted.

Griffin was traded to the Pistons seven months later

Just mere months after Griffin agreed to re-sign with the Clippers to the tune of five years, $173 million, the five-time All-Star was being shipped out to Detroit of all places.

Detroit. Michigan. In the dead of winter. Not exactly an attractive destination for someone who spent the last eight years of their life living in sunny California.

The trade saw LA receive Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, and a future first-round pick in return. Pieces that helped the Clippers get closer to their goal of acquiring multiple superstar-caliber talents during the 2019 offseason.

Detroit ended up being a nightmare for the former Clipper

While Griffin grabbed another All-Star nomination during the 2018-19 season, Detroit was a complete nightmare for him. Multiple reports surfaced that Griffin wanted to be traded or released during his time with the Pistons, eventually leading to his buyout in March of 2021.

Griffin joined the Brooklyn Nets soon after escaping Detroit. He couldn’t capture that ever-elusive NBA championship this past season, but he looked far happier playing for the Nets compared to the Pistons.

Brooklyn re-signed Griffin earlier this offseason. They’re again looking to contend for a championship building around the trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving.

All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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