AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Detroit Pistons dramatically shook their struggling roster by acquiring one of the NBA’s top players in Blake Griffin in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The deal for the five-time All-Star forward was announced early Tuesday, giving Detroit a player who has been the face of the Clippers but whose career has been undercut by injuries.
Detroit sent forward Tobias Harris, guard Avery Bradley and center Boban Marjanovic to Los Angeles, with the Clippers also receiving draft picks. Detroit also acquired forward Brice Johnson and center Willie Reed.
“We are serious about winning, and this is a major move to improve our team,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said in a statement. “Blake Griffin is one of the NBA’s elite players, and when you get an opportunity to add that kind of talent, you take it.”
For the Clippers, moving Griffin is another step in a makeover of a franchise that has never made it past the second round of the playoffs.
Griffin was not expected to play in Tuesday night’s home game against Cleveland, and Stan Van Gundy — Detroit’s coach and team president — said his status is uncertain for Thursday night against Memphis.
“Those guys are flying in here tonight, they’ll get physical tomorrow, so I think from our end, we’ll be good,” Van Gundy said Tuesday at Detroit’s practice facility in Auburn Hills. “But I don’t know if we’ll be good from their end. The players have 48 hours to report, but then they’ve got another 24 hours, the organization, to get the physical done. … Now, if the 72 hours expires with six minutes to go in the game, we’ll run him in there.”
The 28-year-old Griffin is averaging 22.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 33 games this season, but the Clippers have been plagued by injuries and are ninth in the Western Conference standings.
Detroit is scuffling as well. The Pistons have lost eight straight.
“Needed a night to digest and reflect on what happened….” Griffin tweeted. “From being a (hashtag)1 pick, to Lob City, to six straight Playoff appearances, I am so proud to have been part of the success of the Clippers organization. LA has been my home since I started in the league and I will be forever grateful to the city for embracing me and supporting me. To the fans, you have been awesome every step of the way. Thank you for years of support.
“Now I’m ready for the next chapter, getting to work and helping the Detroit Pistons make a run in the Eastern Conference.”
Last July, Griffin agreed to a $171 million, five-year deal, ending a brief flirtation with free agency. He told his teammates, coach Doc Rivers and owner Steve Ballmer, “I want my legacy to be a Clipper.”
The deal didn’t include a no-trade clause for the second-leading scorer in franchise history with 10,863 points.
Griffin gives Detroit’s frontcourt another standout alongside Andre Drummond, but it also represents a clear change in course from the roster the Pistons had assembled. Detroit acquired Bradley in a trade with Boston last offseason, but he’s in the final season of his contract. Harris has been impressive for the Pistons this season, shooting a career-best 41 percent from 3-point range.
Detroit did not give up Luke Kennard or Stanley Johnson, the team’s first-round picks in 2017 and 2015.
“For Blake, we probably would have done a lot of things, but yeah, we didn’t want to totally deplete our roster. Obviously, they got our two leading scorers, and a first-round pick, and Boban, who had started to play very effectively for us,” Van Gundy said. “We were concerned, quite honestly, with our ability to re-sign Avery anyway, so we were exploring what we could do with him at the trade deadline. Tobias was obviously really, really hard to give up.”
Detroit’s season was looking promising until a late-December injury to point guard Reggie Jackson. The Pistons have stumbled while he’s been out with a sprained right ankle, and the team is facing the prospect of missing the playoffs in its first season at its new downtown arena.
Detroit’s next six games are at home, so the Pistons will have a chance to turn this season around — and an opportunity to build for a future with both Griffin and Drummond.
For the Clippers, moving Griffin continues a makeover of a franchise that has never made it past the second round of the playoffs.
The Clippers were one game above .500 going into Tuesday night’s game against Portland. They traded All-Star point guard Chris Paul to Houston last summer. He had been credited with bringing respectability to the team that was once a laughingstock. Without Paul, Los Angeles won its first four games to open the season, and then lost nine of its next 11.
“Blake is one of the best players ever to wear a Clippers jersey. We want to express our gratitude and respect for everything he has done for this team and the city of Los Angeles,” said Lawrence Frank, Clippers president of basketball operations. “This was a very difficult decision, but we ultimately felt it was appropriate for the franchise.”
Paul’s replacement, Patrick Beverley, has missed the entire season after right knee surgery. Also missing time have been DeAndre Jordan, Danilo Gallinari, Austin Rivers and Milos Teodosic.
Yet owner Steve Ballmer remains optimistic.
“While change is hard, my confidence in our front office, led by Lawrence Frank and Michael Winger, along with the sage counsel of Jerry West, has never been higher,” he said in a statement. “I believe today, more than ever, in our ultimate goal of winning an NBA championship.”
Los Angeles receives a protected first-round draft choice and a second-round pick from the Pistons.
The Clippers drafted Griffin first overall out of Oklahoma in 2009. However, he missed the 2009-10 season after surgery on his broken left kneecap. Griffin missed 21 games last season and 47 in 2015-16 because of injuries.
“We know the injury history, that’s the risk on it, but that risk was worth it because of the talent that we’re bringing back,” Van Gundy said.
As a rookie, Griffin was an All-Star, won the slam dunk contest and was named NBA Rookie of the Year.
He has averaged 21.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists in his career.
“Blake Griffin had a tremendous impact on this organization and his legacy within the community of Los Angeles will be permanent,” Balmer said. “It was a pleasure getting to know and cheer for Blake. I wish him, as well as Brice and Willie, the best of luck.”
AP Sports Writer Beth Harris in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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