The case for Celtics bringing Blake Griffin back to Boston

The case for Celtics bringing Blake Griffin back to Boston originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

In a somber Celtics locker room following Boston’s season-ending Game 7 loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, it was notable that just about every player sought out Blake Griffin at his stall before departing the arena.

Everyone from the Bus 1 Boys whom Griffin herded for much of the season to superstar Jayson Tatum made sure to share a moment with Griffin. It was obvious throughout the season how much his presence impacted the team, but especially so as players bid their farewells.

Griffin recently gushed about his Boston experience and there’s a strong case to be made that the 34-year-old forward could still have an impact on Boston if the two sides were willing to reunite next season.

“Dude, Boston is unbelievable,” Griffin said during an appearance on Barstool Sports’ Fore Play Pod. “Living in Boston, playing in Boston was one of the best experiences. And I wasn’t even like — the fans are incredible, and just having a team that’s like so championship focused.

“One of the best parts are the players on that team are such a great group of guys. Everybody’s all different. A guy like Jayson Tatum, a legit superstar, and just so humble, talks to everybody on the team, talks to the whole staff.”

Griffin appeared in 41 games for Boston, including 16 spot starts, but distinguished himself with his grit and hustle whenever his number was called upon. Griffin, who battled some lingering back issues in the postseason, appeared in only one playoff game, though we wonder if certain matchups might have elevated his role.

With two open spots on their 15-man roster, the Celtics have brought in a collection of wings this week to explore potential depth options before training camp. The fact that the team hasn’t made any moves to add big man depth, particularly given the health concerns surrounding its centers, makes you wonder if a door is open for a potential Griffin return.

Griffin signed with Boston during training camp last year and his impact was felt on and off the court. And there are multiple reasons to think he can help the 2023-24 team as well.

The Celtics are positioned to lean heavier on some of the Bus 1 Boys whom Griffin embraced. Payton Pritchard will have a heftier role with the departure of Marcus Smart, while Sam Hauser could see even more time after Grant Williams got dealt to the Dallas this summer. Even with just his voice, Griffin could be vital to infusing those players with confidence.

As Tatum continues his quest to be an MVP, Griffin is someone who can offer perspective having faced many of the same challenges earlier in his career.

Before the playoffs last season, Celtics players like Tatum routinely gushed about how Griffin helped the team, including on the court.

“Blake can help us out. Depending on matchups and who we play, we know what he’s gonna bring,” Tatum said in April. "He’s gonna go out there and compete. He can guard bigger guys. He’s gonna compete for every offensive rebound, obviously he can stretch the floor, he’s gonna take charges.

"So Blake is a guy that is willing to do anything that we need him to whether that’s give us a spark or if somebody’s out if he needs to start. We can just count on Blake to do a variety of different things.”

Added Pritchard: “The way he competes, he goes after every rebound, how hard he plays, it just says a lot about who he is as a player. Coming from who he used to be as the main guy and then coming here and taking that role, it shows who he is and who is character is.”

Al Horford is 37. Robert Williams and Kristaps Porzingis have battled health woes. It feels important that the Celtics have some reliable big man depth, particularly players who can be spot starters. Griffin showed last season he can be dusted off after long breaks in playing time and still infuse energy, all while never quibbling about his role.

Griffin joined Boston in hopes of the ring that has eluded his decorated career. It was clear in that Game 7 locker room how falling short stung him. Bringing him back next season could help both sides get the prize they covet.