Just because Blake Griffin is medically able to play doesn’t mean his Nets debut is imminent. Chances are that’s still a ways away.
Signed by the Nets on March 8 after being bought out by the Pistons, Griffin is still working toward consistently playing three-on-three, much less five-on-five or live NBA action.
“I don’t know that he’s played much three-on-three. He’s practiced with us once coming out of the [All-Star] break,” coach Steve Nash said before Monday’s 117-112 win over the rival Knicks at Barclays Center. “He’s working out every day. He’s with the performance team every day. So he’s continuing to ramp up.
“But he’s healthy enough to play. We’re just trying to work on some of his physical deficiencies, to improve and help the knee, and also ramp up his activity so he can have a safer return to play. So we’ll just keep monitoring it, keep building, and we’ll have him back at some point here.”
Griffin hasn’t been the same since undergoing two knee surgeries in the span of eight months. The skywalker who had twice led the NBA in total dunks and had over 1,000 for the Clippers had just 55 in Detroit, and none since Dec. 14, 2019.
Still, adding the six-time All-Star and James Harden (eight-time All-Star when he was acquired in mid-January) mark the first time in NBA history a team had ever added two players with five or more All-Star berths, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Jeff Green lit the Knicks up early and finished with 20 points to help Brooklyn to an NBA-high fifth straight win.
“Just simple pick-and-roll. How they was playing it, we just tried to abuse it the best way we can, and James [Harden] being the good passer that he is was finding me on all the rolls and I just tried to make a play at the end of it,” Green said. “Credit James for being the lethal scorer that he is. We just tried to get back in the game that way. We did get a good rhythm that way and it allowed us to take the lead.”
The veteran forward had 14 points in the first quarter alone and 17 at the break, his highest-scoring half since he put up 19 points on April 7, 2019 with Washington against the Knicks.
“He was getting it on the short roll, he made a couple of nice floaters, made some 3s. He was just smart in his rolls. James found him,” Nash said. “James made some beautiful passes to him for layups, dunks, and then the short rolls, a few 3s, you add it all up and he had a really efficient shooting night and also was our primary defender on [Julius] Randle.”
Green, who missed four of the last five games before the All-Star break with a nerve issue in his shoulder, was forced out of Monday’s tilt after he took another shot to the shoulder. But he was able to come back in and finish.
“I’m good. I’m good, man. It’s something that I believe may linger, I don’t know,” Green said. “I just needed a little minute to gather myself and to just collect myself to get back on the floor. It’s something I’m just going to have to continue to deal with and make the best out of it. That’s where it’s at now. I’m not gonna give the excuse or complain about it. It is what it is.”
Kevin Durant hasn’t played since Feb. 13 with a hamstring injury, and is slated for a third scan this week. He is likely to miss another week or two, according to sources close to the situation.
The Big Three of Durant, Harden and Kyrie Irving has only started six games together. Since Harden’s debut, the Nets were 18-4 entering Monday when at least two of them play. The Nets were 11-2 with Harden and Irving coming into the Knicks contest.
A key part of that four-team megadeal for Harden was Caris LeVert being sent to the Pacers. And after a routine physical revealed a cancerous mass on his kidney that required surgery, LeVert made his debut Saturday with 13 points for his new team.
Now he’ll return to Barclays Center to face his old team when the Nets host Indiana on Wednesday.
“For sure we’re really proud that Caris is returning to play. He’s incredibly well-loved in this organization. He’s a world-class human being and terrific basketball player,” Nash said. “There’s no doubt we’re rooting for him. So to see him return to play and to see him get his career going again is awesome. We miss him, but we’re all rooting for him and want to see him thrive.”