The stunning swap comes just seven months after Griffin signed a massive $171 million free agent deal that was supposed to cement his place as a Clipper for life. He now heads to Detroit along with salary cap throw-ins Willie Reed and Brice Johnson for forwards Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley, center Boban Marjanovic, and a first and second-round draft pick. None of the arriving players are stars of Griffin’s caliber, and the picks are unlikely to be high ones from the improving Pistons.
The deal means at minimum that the Clippers have given up on this season, and may follow Griffin’s trade by unloading remaining stars DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams before the Feb. 8 NBA trade deadline. But longer-term and more importantly, the deal signals a new direction for the team, which lost star guard Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets as a free agent and has floundered since. They are 25-24 and on the periphery of the playoff race.
Griffin did not have a no-trade clause in his contract. Although he has been touted as the face of the franchise and has been featured on billboards across Los Angeles, he is a largely uncharismatic presence who has been frequently injured. The Clippers, perennial second fiddles to the Los Angeles Lakers in popular perceptions and with lagging TV ratings, undoubtedly will look to build something that can excite the fan base more than the current product.
Team owner Steve Ballmer, who bought the Clippers for $2 billion, is known as an owner who wants to make a splash. He certainly did that with this trade.