How is the Blake Griffin experience going in Boston? Let Jayson Tatum tell you.
"It’s been unique to see just his attitude every day," said Tatum. "Doesn’t play for two weeks and then, certain guys out, he might play four or five games in a row. Takes the first bus. On off days he plays pickup with the guys that maybe don’t play and (need) to keep their cardio up. You just don’t see that with guys that were at his level.
"It’s been really unique to see. I appreciate that a lot. The guys do as well. He never makes it about himself, and it’s contagious. His energy, his enthusiasm, his personality. We’re all very fortunate to have him as a teammate because everybody respects him and respects what he’s accomplished. And his voice carries.
"He’s somebody that’s always going to be ready when his number is called and, literally, will do whatever it takes from game to game to just contribute, however many minutes he gets, you know he’s gonna bust his ass."
Tatum had just scored 34 points to lead the Celtics to a gritty victory over the Hawks on Saturday night. But he opened his postgame press conference by gushing about Griffin for a few minutes.
That’s the Blake Effect.
Griffin has this magnetizing personality that has allowed him to win over everyone from the team’s MVP to the training staff. One minute Griffin is riding the early bus and plotting podcast and merchandising opportunities for the end-of-the-bench group that he affectionately dubbed the "Bus 1 Boys." Then, before games, Griffin can be found going through intricate handshakes with Boston’s core players and imploring Tatum to dominate the game.
It wasn’t that long ago that Griffin was the superstar. Not all former All-Stars can acknowledge their changing role, but Griffin ditched the SportsCenter dunks and now revels in charges and strong screens.
The guy who used to jump over Kias now chuckles his way up the court when he barely has enough lift to finish a dunk. Griffin has won over coach Joe Mazzulla by consistently bringing energy each time he’s called upon.
Numerous times this season, TD Garden has roared based simply on Griffin’s hustle. And that energy has been downright infectious.
Forsberg: Tatum continues commitment to win-first mindset
"Just having somebody that everybody respects, has accomplished a lot, is in a different role than we’re used to seeing him in, and just to see his attitude is all about winning," said Tatum. "If somebody that has a Hall of Fame resume can buy in and just be that selfless, it just carries throughout the entire team."
Mazzulla is often measured in his praise of players, but like Tatum, he’s heaped it on Griffin in hefty doses lately.
Griffin has gotten the call in recent games to log backup big minutes ahead of Grant Williams, Luke Kornet, and deadline acquisition Mike Muscala. The Celtics have a plus-9.5 net rating in Griffin’s 432 minutes over 30 appearances. That’s the third best mark on the team behind only Derrick White and Robert Williams III (both at plus-9.9).
Griffin is second on the team in charge takes with 11, trailing only White (13). He’s second on Boston’s roster in screen assist points per game, slotting behind Williams III.
It’s clear that Mazzulla values Griffin’s approach to the game, and the coach rattled off a shopping list when asked what has led to Griffin’s uptick in play lately.
"His emotional, mental, physical toughness. His ability to keep plays alive. His ability to make the toughness plays, whether it's charge, deflections, loose balls, offensive rebounds, screening," said Mazzulla. "There are certain people, and he's one of them, that, when he's on the floor, everybody else is better. Because of his experience and his toughness and the way he plays, he does that."
Griffin’s easygoing personality made it seamless to add him to an established roster. About the only time Griffin looks uncomfortable is when the conversation shifts to his role in Boston’s success.
"I love playing basketball, so obviously any chance to be out there, you take it. But truly and most importantly -- I think this goes for a lot of guys in this locker room -- the most important thing is us getting wins," said Griffin. "So sometimes you just got to bring energy. Like I didn't have to score a single point in the Portland game. Just wanted to focus on what I was supposed to do.
"We’re going to need everybody coming coming down the stretch, so it's just my turn right now."
Griffin pledged to be ready whenever Mazzulla calls but said he’s just as happy to go back to clapping at the end of the bench if others get the nod ahead of him.
At the moment, the Celtics are feeding off Griffin’s inspired play.
"Blake is just a very smart, savvy player," said Al Horford. "On the defensive end, he’s trying to impact the game however he can, and then, on offense, he’s finding his spots and everything he brings, he lifts our group. It’s just good to see him getting some minutes here and showing a different side that our group has."
Some superstars struggle to find their identity when their skills start to fade. Not everyone can reinvent themselves. Griffin is a rare outlier, and you can tell how much he’s savoring the moment.
Like when he was asked after Saturday’s game what has stood out most about his Boston journey.
"The guys," said Griffin. "The guys on this team are awesome. Everybody's genuinely happy for each other. When one of us gets thrown in there and we do well, the bench thrives, there's energy and we feed off each other. I've really enjoyed being around these guys.
"It helps to win a lot of games. But these guys are great."
Griffin admits he didn’t know for sure how it would be here but he’s got a healthy appreciation for the situation.
“It starts with our leaders -- JT and JB (Jaylen Brown), Al, Marcus (Smart) -- those guys have been together for some years now and they know each other; they allow each other to be who they are," said Griffin. "But then, at the same time, they all come back in and do what's best for the team."
So whether it’s being a good locker room presence or logging second-unit minutes, Griffin has strived to simply do what’s best for the team. And you can feel the positive vibes that he radiates throughout the Celtics’ locker room.