AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Stan Van Gundy knows there is risk in dealing for Blake Griffin, but it’s a risk the Detroit Pistons head coach and president of basketball operations was willing to take for a franchise in need of a boost.
“Our thinking was this: The hardest thing to do in this league is to get a proven star,” Van Gundy said after Tuesday’s shootaround. “It’s just very hard to do. It’s hard to do in free agency. It’s hard to do in trades. You get very few opportunities to do it.
“The guy’s a five-time All-Star. He’s been an All-NBA guy, [one of] top 15 guys in the league. He’s only 28 years old. We know the injury history — that’s the risk on it. But that risk was worth it because of the talent we’re bringing back.”
Van Gundy said Griffin would not be available to play in Tuesday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Van Gundy noted that Griffin, who still hasn’t arrived in Detroit, is “questionable” for Thursday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies, as all players involved in the deal have to pass their respective physicals.
The Pistons (22-26) enter Tuesday’s game having lost eight in a row, but Van Gundy held firm to his conviction that the circumstances didn’t necessarily prompt the trade.
“If we had won 10 in a row and Blake Griffin were available, we would have done the same thing,” Van Gundy said.
Van Gundy said he spoke to Griffin after the deal was completed and that he was “eager for the challenge” to help the Pistons.
“If there were no risk involved, if Blake didn’t have any injury history, he wouldn’t be available,” Van Gundy said. “So we take the risk to get that high-level talent. We just weren’t in a position, we’re not in a position even now, even with eight losses in a row, and we haven’t been in a position even before I got here to get draft pick 1, 2, 3 [or] 4.
“The highest draft pick on our roster is 8. That’s rare in this league. Everybody’s got a top-three or -four pick somewhere on their roster and we didn’t. It’s hard to go that way. This wasn’t a conscious decision to be, some people were saying, ‘all in.’ It was that a guy became available who’s a great player and we took the opportunity to do it.”
Griffin’s new teammates are excited to get the chance to play with the No. 1 overall pick from the 2009 draft.
“It’s a big trade,” point guard Reggie Jackson said. “It’s hard to ever get a chance to get a former No. 1 pick. I think we all know what Blake can do, how great he’s been in the league. It was very tough for us to lose somebody that I’ve spent time with over the last two years [in] Tobias, even Avery, he’s been outstanding with his [brief] time here. We grew into a brotherhood.”
Van Gundy acknowledged that three weeks ago he never would have thought he’d be dealing Harris in this kind of move, but he reiterated that anything can happen in the league, especially this time of year. Van Gundy admitted that part of the reason Bradley was included in the deal was because the Pistons figured he would probably field higher offers as he hits the market this summer.
Van Gundy compared his wheelings and dealings to that of a baseball team.
“When you look at all the analytics … we understand that it’s a perimeter league,” Van Gundy said. “But if you look at like the Tampa Bay Rays in baseball — so everybody wanted power hitting and on-base percentage. They couldn’t get that. What did they go do? They went and built it on relief pitching and defense and were very, very competitive for years.
“So we’re not in a situation where we can be that choosy and we can’t necessarily go and try to do it the same way as everybody else. We’re going to be different. Our money and our talent is in our big guys and in Reggie when we get him back. People are going to have to play to us a little bit on that matchup too.”
The Pistons seem most excited about the idea of pairing Andre Drummond — the NBA’s leading rebounder this season — with Griffin and seeing how the duo can take over games. But Van Gundy knows his team will undergo some major schematic changes in the short term.
“It’s going to be an adjustment for Andre because we’ve run everything, literally everything, through him this year,” Van Gundy said. “Now that obviously won’t be the case, we’ll run a lot of stuff through Blake and he’ll be in different positions off the ball. That will be a little bit different, it will take some adjustment.”
As the dust cleared on one of the biggest trades of the year, Van Gundy reiterated that no player in the NBA is above being traded if the right package presented itself.
“I’ve said it before, I’ll stick to it: Every single guy in this league is available,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t give a s— what any organization tells you. Every single guy in this league is available. Now some of them, it’s going to be very hard to get because their price would be really, really high. But hell, you can put together a deal for LeBron [James], you can out together a deal for Kevin Durant. Every guy in this league’s available. If they don’t have a no-trade [clause], they’re available.”