Blake Griffin of the Brooklyn Nets fights for the ball during a game against the Toronto Raptors.
After stumbling out of the gate and enduring some early fighting from a possibly beaten up, definitely out of shape James Harden, the Brooklyn Nets are in a good place. When he entered the battle with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, Steve Nash’s roster tied 12-5 with the Chicago Bulls for the best record in the East.
The Nets also have a top 10 at the time of this writing -Defense, a scenario that was almost unimaginable last season. And all of this comes together with all-star scorer Kyrie Irving, who is still sitting out an appeal against New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
For the Nets, however, not all aces are on the rise, there Blake Griffin has apparently returned to his Pistons styles after his Brooklyn resurgence last season.
In fact, that may underestimate the situation. With 16 appearances in 2021-22, Griffin averaged a career low of 5.7 points per game with an effective field goal percentage of just 35.7. It’s a line that made Jason Collins look like Lew Alcindor in comparison.
So far, Nash has been extremely patient with the former All-Star. However, with Harden and Kevin Durant showing their age and a legitimate chance for an NBA title pending, the time is near for him to take off his kid’s gloves. Time to get LaMarcus Aldridge in the top five.
Aldridge looks like a man of new life since he returned from his brief retirement this summer. The 36-year-old puts on 12.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per contest. He’s also hitting shots (56.5% overall, 42.9% of three) at a higher rate than ever before.
Make no mistake, Aldridge is no longer the guy next to Brandon Roy or Damian Lillard 20 plus and lost 10 even though he was great. But Brooklyn doesn’t need him.
Brooklyn needs a steady hand that can play the ball right, ricochet, try to defend and occasionally spell Durant and Harden as a goal threat. So far, Aldridge has fulfilled this role as well or better than anyone else on the team. But this proposed promotion really isn’t about him.
Obviously, that doesn’t happen against frontline NBA talent. However, if he manages to get through against the guys at the bank and perhaps take on additional responsibility as the first option in the bumps – as Aldridge did – he can potentially build trust and renew his investment in the Nets process.If his shortened run with the team in 2020-21 has shown us anything, it is that a motivated and confident Blake Griffin still has a lot to offer. The guy we’ve seen so far this season … not so much.
For his part, Nash has hinted that Griffin is just going through some “funk” and that he plans to “stay with him”. But if you stick with your guy, it’s not about force-feeding him during the first-team minutes. It’s about empowering him to be successful. And keeping Griffin out with the starters doesn’t seem like the place.
Winning a championship is an all-hands-on-deck proposition, and Griffin was MIA. Even if that means Aldridge is taking a hit in its usage and overall efficiency, it may be in the team’s best interests in the long run to push it up while Griffin sorties.
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