The Brooklyn Nets have a star player in Blake Griffin

Brooklyn Nets big man Blake Griffin is in a great mood.

Ask your college coach.

“Every time I talk to Blake, one of the things that always comes up is how much fun he’s having fun, playing meaningful games and making an impact,” said Jeff Capel, who coached Griffin in Oklahoma, on Thursday before the game of the Nets. 86-83 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3.

“I’m so happy for him, just to see him happy again.”

Griffin, 32, has made a seamless transition from star player to star player since signing with Brooklyn following his purchase deal with Detroit.

“He’s extraordinary, a great example for young players,” said Capel, who is now a coach at Pitt. “He talks a lot about him as a person and his desire to win.”

Griffin, who previously owed a combined $ 75 million this season and next, gave up $ 13.3 million to leave the Pistons rebuilding and join contending Nets. He’s making $ 777,000 with Brooklyn at the veterans prorated minimum.

“All I heard for two years was how bad I am,” Griffin responded when asked about the NBA uproar surrounding his Nets’ pact.

Griffin originally came to be the team’s backup small-ball center behind starter / buying partner LaMarcus Aldridge. But Aldridge’s abrupt retirement due to a heart problem changed the equation, putting Griffin at number one. The six-time All-Star and five-time All-NBA pick has responded by doing a little bit of everything.

In the playoffs, Griffin is averaging 6.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 24.1 minutes. During that eight-game span, Brooklyn is outperforming the opposition by 15.8 points per 100 possessions with the No. 2 on the court, including posting a 104.5 defensive rating (the Nets are third in that category during the season. postseason overall at 107.8).

In the second round, Griffin’s daunting task has been trying to contain two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. In Game 3, Antetokounmpo did not score for the final seven minutes. For the series, Antetokounmpo is shooting 52.4 percent with Griffin protecting him (22 of 42), 4.5 percent below his regular season percentage, according to NBA.com.

Early in his career, Griffin was haunted by the perception that he was not a great defender, just an incredible athlete. But his efforts to try to break away from the dominant Antetokounmpo have been commendable. “He’s not the athlete he once was, but he has a tremendous mind for basketball and he’s very smart on the court,” Capel said. “He has always been able to make plays for his teammates. You have expanded your shooting range. And I think a lot of people are really seeing that now. ”

During the regular season, Griffin tied for the league lead in charges taken at 22. He has also had 25 dunks since joining Brooklyn, after posting zero at Detroit.

After being voted No. 1 overall in 2009, Griffin helped turn the Los Angeles Clippers from an afterthought into “Lob City,” an attractive destination for both free agents and high-profile coaches. Griffin ended up signing a five-year, $ 173 million extension in July 2017, perhaps a franchise player, but was surprisingly traded to the Pistons just six months later.

Highly motivated, he led Detroit to the playoffs in 2018-19. But the result of all that effort was a knee injury, which ultimately required two surgeries in less than nine months to fix. The Nets had Griffin work with their performance team to recover physically, and he has been enthusiastic about that process. “The main thing is that he got to work,” Capel said. “And with all the stars around you, you don’t have to carry the load.”

Griffin has said that Kevin Durant was the player who drafted him the most in Brooklyn. She has also had a strong relationship with Steve Nash, and they both possess a similar dry sense of humor.

A ring is basically the only thing missing. That is why Blake Griffin is willing to do whatever it takes.

“He’s a great example for young players that winning is the most important thing,” Capel said. “His first coach, his father (Tommy), instilled that in him, and he has a great older brother (Taylor) as a role model. His parents are amazing people. That he is an All-NBA player and is willing to adapt his game and fit into a role that is necessary speaks highly of his character and determination. “

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James Harden (hamstring) is out for Game 4 on Sunday, while Jeff Green (foot) is questionable, Steve Nash told reporters.

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