It wasn’t perfect.
Blake Griffin saw his first action as a Celtic on Friday night in Charlotte. He hit just one of his six shots — a three-pointer at the top of the arc — and coughed up two turnovers in just under 17 minutes. The 14-year veteran signed with Boston just a week ago. He hasn’t played much 5-on-5 and felt a little sped up on the court, but off the court, Griffin has fit in well.
“It’s always a little weird coming in, but these guys are great. Coaching staff was great; they give you a clear message,” Griffin told NBC Boston’s Abby Chin after finishing with 7 points, 9 rebounds, and a +8 after Boston fell in a 15-point hole.
“The intensity level of this group is off the charts. Every day when we get to work, it’s intense. It’s not that we’re going forever, but these guys are locked in and nobody has to tell us to be locked in. It’s refreshing.”
Griffin spent last season in Brooklyn, his second with the Nets and Steve Nash. After Kevin Durant’s trade request this summer that quickly turned into an ultimatum and later fizzled out, Griffin seems happy to not just be with a contender, but a steady organization that has weathered a difficult offseason of their own. Part of that has been the stewardship of first time head coach Joe Mazzulla.
“Super poised. He’s very relaxed,” Griffin said of Mazzulla, who he played against at Oklahoma in a double overtime win over West Virginia. “He knows how to talk to guys, he knows how to make guys laugh, but he also knows how to get on us.”
With the Celtics down as many as 15 in the first half, Mazzulla elected to start Griffin after halftime. Boston subsequently took a 13-point lead by the middle of the fourth quarter with Griffin replacing Noah Vonleh with the starters.
Griffin didn’t exactly jump over any cars like he did in his early Clippers days, but Boston could be looking at a pared down version of the #1 overall pick that made him an All-Star in Detroit three years ago.
With Boston starting the regular season without Danilo Gallinari and Robert Williams (and possibly Luke Kornet who is nursing a sprained ankle), Griffin could see 15-20 minutes a night with the Celtics starting the year against the loaded front courts of the 76ers, Heat, Magic, Bulls, and Cavaliers.
“I’m just trying to find that rhythm. Next practice will be better, next practice will be better, and keep improving,” Griffin said.