Blake Griffin

Pistons forward Blake Griffin undergoes another knee surgery


Pistons forward Blake Griffin undergoes another knee surgery

When Blake Griffin entered the NBA he was one of the most explosive athletes in the league. Griffin was 6-foot-9 and could leap with ease and speed.

He was able to have that explosiveness even after a stress fracture and a broken left kneecap that cost him his rookie year in 2009-10. However, injuries have remained constant in Griffin’s career. He has played more than 70 games just once since the 2013-14 season.

The 30-year-old has now had another knee surgery. The Detroit Pistons announced the surgery and that there is no timetable for Griffin’s return.

Griffin had a career resurgence last season with the Pistons. He joined the team in the middle of the 2017-18 season and averaged a career-high 24.5 points in 2018-19. He was named to his first All-Star Game since 2015 and played 75 games, the most since 2013-14.

However, his numbers were way down in 18 games this season. Griffin was shooting 35.2% from the floor, the lowest of his career by far.

The surgery could give him another chance to return to all-star form, but his season could be over.

From a Bulls perspective, it means Griffin won’t be on the court when they are in Detroit on Saturday. The Bulls are 3-0 against the Pistons this year and Griffin only played in one of those.

The Pistons grabbed the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference last year and are the only one of the eight East playoff teams from last year to be outside the playoff spots currently. The Miami Heat have emerged as a new contender this year.

The Pistons are 13-24, the same record as the Bulls. Both teams are four games out of the final two playoff spots in the standings.

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What to watch for when Derrick Rose and the Pistons visit the Bulls for the second time this season

What to watch for when Derrick Rose and the Pistons visit the Bulls for the second time this season

In a matchup of two stumbling squads, the Bulls look to begin the process of righting the ship against the Pistons. The game tips off at 7 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago — until then, here’s what to watch for:

In spite of it all, a winnable game

The Bulls enter this game with a bad, no-good, rotten 4-10 record. Lucky for them, their opponent is 4-9, and has lost five of their last six.

En route to their own disappointing start to the season, the Pistons have dealt with injuries to key players in Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose, devolved into one of the lowest rated defenses in the league and struggled mightily with turnovers. They’re actually a pretty good shooting team, but play at such a slow pace (99.96 possessions per 48 minutes, 25th in the NBA), that they haven’t been able to fully maximize that efficiency in the way many modern offenses do.

Oh, man. They’re kind of the anti-Bulls.

In that vein, the area in which Detroit struggles the most could play directly into the Bulls’ hands. Literally. The Pistons are currently tied for 27th in the league in turnovers (17.5) per game and 28th in opponent points off turnovers (28th) per game, while the Bulls rank first in both opponent turnovers (18.9) and points off turnovers (21.9) per game. 

In the first meeting of the season between the two teams — a six-point Bulls win on Nov. 1 — the turnover battle was largely even. But tonight, look for that and the Bulls’ ability to turn takeaways into fast break opportunities to be a factor.

Holding ground in the paint and on the wing

Sure, the Bulls have already beaten these Pistons. But much has changed for both teams since their first meeting — chiefly: Blake Griffin is back for Detroit, and both Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison are missing for Chicago. (Hutchison was inactive for their first matchup, too, but Porter started and notched 22 points and six rebounds while shooting 3-for-4 from three.)

Andre Drummond beat the Bulls up on the glass en route to 24 rebounds and Detroit dominated the points-in-the-paint battle 66-40 on Nov. 1. And while not yet at full strength, the addition of Griffin to Detroit’s rotation should only exacerbate those disparities — especially considering the struggles the Bulls have had rebounding, protecting the rim and scoring around the basket. Losing the long, solid and athletic Hutchison just hours before the contest doesn’t help, either.

Boylen may choose to counter with another dose of Daniel Gafford, a strategy many Bulls fans — and players — would certainly endorse. Monday night, the Bulls both outrebounded and won the points-in-the-paint battle against the Bucks, a great rebounding and interior scoring squad. It’s hard to credit all of that to Gafford, but he remains an intriguing option in spurts in this matchup.

On the wing, it’s worth monitoring what buttons Boylen pushes with his rotations. He’ll likely have to call upon Denzel Valentine and/or Shaq Harrison to eat minutes out there (something he’s shied away from doing early in the season), and don’t be surprised to see three-guard lineups — a configuration Boylen has demonstrated an affinity for — galore.

Can Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen bounce back?

Of late, the cornerstones of the rebuild have looked anything but. In Monday’s game against Milwaukee, LaVine and Markkanen combined to shoot 6-for-28, and spearheaded a crunch-time unit that failed to score a field goal in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter.

Their struggles go deeper than that one game, but a Detroit defense that has had issues defending on the perimeter presents an opportunity for each of them to bounce back. In the aforementioned Nov. 1 matchup, LaVine notched 26 points, five rebounds and three assists on 8-for-20 shooting. Markkanen tallied 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals (3-for-7 from three), but took only nine shots. Neither of those lines are stamping them tickets to All-Star weekend, but any hint of improvement would be a welcome development. 

Right now, the hope — especially for Markkanen — is that things can only go up from here.

Derrick Rose returns (again)

Last season, there were ‘MVP’ chants. This year, a standing ovation. What will another Derrick Rose return to the UC hold? No one can say for certain, but at the very least, a reunion with an old friend:


And, of course, there’s a game to be played, too. As mentioned, Rose has been in and out of the Pistons rotation early in the season with a nagging hamstring injury. When he’s played, he’s been excellent, averaging 18.4 points and 5.8 assists in 24.5 minutes per game with 54.1/37.5/89.7 (all career-bests) shooting splits. 

And he always shows out in Chicago. In three games as a visitor against the Bulls, Rose has averaged 20.7 points, 8.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds and two steals per game on 25-for-48 (52.1%) shooting.

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Three keys for Bulls against Pistons: Casey brings direction to talented Pistons core


Three keys for Bulls against Pistons: Casey brings direction to talented Pistons core

When last we saw the Pistons, Blake Griffin forced Zach LaVine to lose the ball as he was attempting a potential game-winning 3-pointer in the home-opener on Oct. 20, and yes, close losses have become a disturbing trend during the Bulls’ 5-17 start.

But while basketball fans in Chicago anxiously await the return of three of the team’s top six players from injury (Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis), fans in Motown are looking forward to a return to postseason play under first-year head coach Dwane Casey.

In case you haven’t noticed, the Pistons currently own the No. 5 seed in the East with an 11-7 record and they’ve won seven of their last 10 games. Blake Griffin seems to have fully embraced his move to the Midwest and is determined to re-establish himself as a top-20 player in the NBA, averaging 25 points, nearly 10 rebounds and five assists per game.

Similar story with co-stars Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. Drummond appears to be headed to his second straight All-Star Game, leading the league in rebounding with 16 per game, while also averaging 18.7 points. Jackson is 100-percent recovered from an ankle injury that wrecked his 2017-18 season, averaging 16 points and 4.2 assists per game.

Casey has been forced to juggle the other spots in his starting lineup because of an injury to second-year guard Luke Kennard, but Reggie Bullock has done a solid job at shooting guard with athletic wings Stanley Johnson and Glenn Robinson III holding down the fort at the small forward spot.

Detroit might not have the deepest roster in the East, but Ish Smith has been giving Casey quality minutes at the back-up point guard spot, and with two likely All Stars on the roster, the Pistons should easily be good enough to claim one of the conference’s eight playoff spots.

In that first meeting at the United Center, the Bulls put up 116 points, led by LaVine’s 33 on 12-of-21 shooting from the field. Justin Holiday chipped in 19 points, while Cam Payne added 17 in a starting role.

Problem is, none of the Bulls’ point guards could do anything with Smith, who scored all 15 of his points in the second half, including the game-winning basket on a blown defensive coverage with the score tied and only 5.4 seconds remaining.

So, how can the Bulls flip the script Friday night in Detroit?

1. Defend the 3-point line. The Pistons really hurt the Bulls from beyond the arc in the first meeting, hitting 18 of their 40 attempts, including a 5-for-7 effort from Griffin, who has dramatically improved his long-range shooting over the last couple seasons. Detroit’s point guards, Jackson and Smith, combined to go for 7-for-12 on 3s, as well.

2. Keep Drummond off the glass. Drummond seems to have some of his best rebounding games against the Bulls, including a number of 20-plus efforts. Wendell Carter Jr. has struggled to stay out of foul trouble over the last half dozen games, so look for Robin Lopez to get more playing time against Drummond on Friday, especially after his season-high 17-point performance in Milwaukee.

3. Archie plays Motown. All of a sudden, Ryan Arcidiacono has emerged as a solid complementary scorer to LaVine in the Bulls’ backcourt, with back-to-back career-high 22-point performances. Arcidiacono became only the third Bulls player to record five made 3-pointers and five steals in a single game, with Nikola Mirotic and Brent Barry the other members of the unlikely trio. Archie will try to get the better of his matchup with Jackson on Friday night.

It will be an early 6 p.m. start, so we hope you’ll join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue and I for Bulls Pregame Live at 5:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the My Teams by NBC Sports app. Then after the game broadcast ends on WGN, flip back to NBC Sports Chicago for reaction and analysis on Bulls Postgame Live, followed by the always entertaining Bulls Outsiders.

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