A small sample shows there may be a place for veterans Kemba Walker and Blake Griffin
Due to the barrage of players entering NBA health and safety protocols for Covid-19, NBA rosters are a mixed bag of young players having opportunities with their current teams, young players getting 10 days of the G-League and veterans returning to the league with new teams.
In New York, it’s a mix of young players and new recruits but also a return to Nets and Knicks rotations for former All-Stars Blake Griffin and Kemba Walker.
And in the small sample of evidence consisting of five games combined, it’s perhaps plausible to suggest that Griffin and Walker have some sort of role in a rotation.
Walker’s demotion out of the rotation is most notable given the fanfare of his signing playing every homecoming angle for the Bronx native, who just 10 years ago played his incredible five games in five days for UConn in the Big East Tournament.
Except it didn’t go to plan as Walker was dropped from the rotation after a 21-point loss to Phoenix on Nov. 26. Until the COVID-19 rash hit the Knicks, Walker was out of rotation for 10 games, a stretch where the Knicks lost seven times.
“I hate it. I want to play,” Walker said of his demotion on Saturday. “That’s how it is. Some guys have gone down. I have to substitute, do what I can until they come back.”
Walker returned to the rotation Saturday at Boston with a 29-point performance, then produced a regular 21-point performance against Detroit on Tuesday.
The days of Walker being the number one guy are a thing of the past, but if you watched the game you couldn’t help but notice his smile after every basket he made and you couldn’t help but notice the effusive praise of fill- in analyst Wally Szczerbiak.
As for Griffin, ever since the Nets signed him, they’ve tried to mix his low post prowess with an attempt to get him to stretch the big man off the floor. In his first 26 games with the Nets he hit those 3 with a respectable 38.3% clip (31 of 81) and in 12 playoff games he shot slightly better from 3 points at 38.8% (14 for 36).
This year, 3-pointers aren’t flying as Griffin makes 19.7% (15 of 76) in 22 games and was dropped from rotation after 17 games when his season numbers were 5.5 points, 4, 9 rebounds, 31.8 percent from the floor and 16.1 from behind the 3-point arc.
The mantra for anyone removed from an NBA rotation, whether a young player trying to find their way or a veteran trying to pursue a distinguished career, is to be prepared in case the circumstances would arise.
And boy, did circumstances ever present themselves last week for the Nets.
Griffin’s opener returns to the rotation with seven players in protocol, including James Harden and LaMarcus Aldridge, the veteran who replaced Griffin in the starting lineup.
In the first game back in the rotation, Griffin scored 13 in a wild 131-129 win over Toronto clocking 30:42. He followed that up with 34 points and 16 rebounds in 64 minutes in the next two games when the Nets became even more understaffed with the entry of Kevin Durant into protocol, a situation that could keep him out of the game. Christmas Day game against Los Angeles. Lakers.
And that production includes six 3-pointers on 19 attempts, including that point shot where he takes the ball to the ground and takes a few dribbles before it enters clean.
“Blake played well,” Nets coach Steve Nash said Saturday, when the Nets were down to eight players. “Like I told him, we know there’s always something around the corner, so although he was out of rotation for a little while, we knew something was going to happen and that he would have his chance again, and he is a pro.
“He worked hard, stayed fit, found a rhythm. He plays basketball well. »
And beyond the basic numbers, that’s what the eyesight test shows and it’s a constant mark of turmoil that led him to draw a few charges, a category entering Monday Griffin was tied for. with Kyle Lowry for the league lead with 18.
“I’m proud of it, for sure,” Griffin said. “It’s my job, you know?”
Gone are the days when any team needed Walker and Griffin to be the top scorer in most games. The small sampling due to an unfortunate situation shows there may be a place for them in an NBA rotation, especially with commissioner Adam Silver telling ESPN the league isn’t going to halt the season.