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Detroit Pistons' Blake Griffin sets goal: Host 1st round of playoffs

Tribune News Service • Sep 26, 2018 at 12:12 AM

Blake Griffin is accustomed to championship expectations.

Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Griffin formed the nucleus of a Los Angeles Clippers squad that was one of the best teams in the league for several seasons.

All three are no longer wearing Clippers uniforms, but Griffin brings those high expectations to the Pistons.

At the team's media day at Little Caesars Arena on Monday, Griffin didn't predict the Pistons would raise the franchise's fourth title banner.

But he did say that hosting a playoff series is within reach.

"Our expectations should be high," Griffin said. "In the East, with our roster, I don't see why getting home court in the playoffs is not a reasonable expectation.

"I've played in the playoffs and been fortunate enough to be on teams to know that once you get in the playoffs... Getting home court or not could be the deciding factor in a Game 7."

Strong words for a franchise that hasn't won a playoff game in a decade.

Strong words for a franchise that hasn't had home-court advantage for a playoff series since the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2008.

But a strong sense of optimism permeated media day.

And there are reasons to believe that the optimism might be justified.

Detroit Pistons gain a new voice

The No. 1 reason for hope is new coach Dwane Casey.

Hired to replace Stan Van Gundy after four seasons, Casey has brought a positive vibe.

The franchise feels fortunate to have nabbed Casey, who was voted NBA Coach of the Year last season after leading the Toronto Raptors to a franchise record 59 victories and the Eastern Conference's top seed.

Casey was fired after his team was swept from the playoffs by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers -- the third straight season with that result.

Casey, 61, is promising to bring a faster tempo to the offense, with the team shooting more 3-pointers.

But Casey is also accentuating the positive and trying to eliminate the negative.

That's led to the easy vibe.

There's more.

For the first time in several years, Griffin spent the offseason working on his game and not rehabbing an injury.

Griffin, who was acquired in January, has also spent the offseason becoming acclimated with teammates.

Maybe he can recapture his star power.

"With the coaching change and everything and some of the new guys added to the roster and with the guys we had, we're really focused on that," Luke Kennard said in agreeing with Griffin. "That's one of our biggest goals.

"We have the players to do it, we have the coaches to do it. Just being around everybody, the vibes of everybody right now is good and we're focused on winning."

A word of caution

Maybe it's because he's seen two straight confident media days that resulted in seasons that didn't meet expectations.

Maybe it's two straight injury-marred seasons.

But point guard Reggie Jackson didn't want to talk about the playoffs.

He said he's confident in the team. And he has goals in mind.

But he thinks that one issue of the past two seasons may have been looking too far ahead.

"I think the last two years we've tried to focus on where we wanted to be, but we didn't necessarily look at the steps it took every day to get there," Jackson said. "It's the tortoise or the hare. I want us to be the tortoise. I want us to focus on our race. I want us to focus on our path and control what we can control and let the end goal be the end goal.

"If we focus on one step a day, focus on our race, we'll be where we want to be."

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