Nets’ Blake Griffin faces shrinking role after LaMarcus Aldridge shines

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Blake Griffin walked away from the start sitting up straight.

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Now the question is, was it a one-off situation or a long-term one?

Griffin, who claimed the Nets’ center spot at the end of last season and started the first 18 games of this campaign, was not only pulled from the lineup on Wednesday in Boston, but also never got off the bench.

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LaMarcus Aldridge got clearance at center, and with the way the Nets looked on the floor with the 36-year-old veteran, it will be difficult for Griffin to take the job back from Griffin as he comes to town on Saturday.

“Someone who can space, drop his shot and just a big body that can rebound and defend the rim,” said Kevin Durant, what the Nets need from his center. “We will need all of our big guys all year long, no matter what. I know Blake wasn’t there, but we need him to be ready to be the team we want to be.”

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Each title team has its own bench tested on the way to the championship. The question is, what kind of role will Griffin play?

Griffin, who leads the NBA in relegations, still brings a physical toughness and willingness to do the dirty work. But after starting every game from last season’s playoffs through a win on Monday in Cleveland, Griffin logged just 9:07 against the Cavaliers, and then sat down against the Celtics.

He would enter the game averaging a career-low 5.5 points on shooting .318 against Phoenix, and shooting just .161 from 3-point range.

“We just need to look at different things,” said coach Steve Nash. “I think it has picked up our pace. [Aldridge is] Not the fastest guy on the floor, but we played with the pace. We played with ideas. We were not stable. We moved the ball. I thought we defended well.

Blake Griffin, Lamarcus Aldridge
AP, Getty

“Overall, the spirit was really good. That’s what we’re asking of this group to have a great spirit and lift each other up and push for more, be better.”

Nash strongly expressed confidence that Griffin would grow out of his funk, but the fact that the other teams did not share that view contributed to the switch. Too often, Griffin’s defender has stopped to pack paint against Durant and James Harden’s drives.

Against the Celtics, Aldridge had 17 points and nine rebounds. More importantly, even after missing its first four shots, Boston still respects the scouting report built over a decade-and-a-half of midrange jumpers.

“He brings a different dynamic to his team,” said Celtics coach Ime Udoka.

Aldridge is shooting .595 percent from the midrange, the best ever in the league of any player who has averaged at least two midrange attempts (he’s on 4.4). That jumper could help unlock a Nets offense that has been playing at times without Kyrie Irving and now Joe Harris.

“I told him in the game, the one thing about him is I don’t have to worry about him making shots or missing out,” Harden said. “He’s got over 20,000 points. So I don’t know when he last started – he probably got used to starting again – but it’ll get there. And apparently quite sure he did.” But I’m not worried about it.

“He’s going to move on, and once he gets going it brings a different element to the offensive end in our game. Our offense will come and we’ll keep growing and getting better. … LaMarcus in our starting lineup now With, he gives us a different role sometimes with his pick-and-pop jump shot. So the big guys are no longer able to sit in the paint and crowd the paint.”

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