Blake Griffin, right, will join Jayson Tatum, left, and the Boston Celtics this season after signing a one-year guaranteed deal on Monday. John Minchillo/Associated Press

Blake Griffin did not expect to sign with an NBA team until after training camp. Things changed quickly on that front this past week though when injuries piled up in the Celtics’ frontcourt. That left Boston looking for an experienced big that had the ability to switch in its system, leading Boston to sign Griffin on a one-year guaranteed deal.

The news comes on the heels of the Celtics losing a host of forwards and bigs to injuries in the past month. Danilo Gallinari is expected to miss the season with a torn ACL, Robert Williams III is likely out until 2023 as he recovers from knee surgery and Luke Kornet will be out for a bit after suffering a sprained ankle last week.

“I think it came about more recently with injuries,” Griffin said Monday after officially signing a one-year deal with Boston. “I talked to (Celtics president of basketball operations) Brad (Stevens) two years ago when I was with Detroit and had a great conversation. I have a lot of respect for him so it sparked back then.”

The Celtics were a mediocre team in the Eastern Conference when Griffin was bought out by the Detroit Pistons during the 2020-21 season. He chose the Nets over Boston despite the Celtics’ interest. Nearly two years later, Griffin will join Brooklyn’s rival and had nothing but good things to say about the opportunity.

“Obviously beyond the history that this franchise has, Boston has always been one of those places as an NBA player where I feel like guys have a pretty cool experience playing there,” Griffin said. “Beyond that, just the core they have, having Brad in the front office now, the coaches that they have – I actually played against (Celtics interim coach) Joe (Mazzulla)  in college – this young core and the foundation they laid last year sets the table. This is the kind of opportunity you couldn’t pass on.”

The Celtics will likely need to lean on Griffin early as they try to navigate a short-handed frontcourt. The team opted to go small with Derrick White in the starting five during the team’s preseason debut and had Noah Vonleh and Mfiondu Kabengele play the majority of their backup minutes behind Al Horford. Griffin will be a much more-seasoned option for the team than that duo in the backcourt.


“Just some stability, whatever they need,” Griffin said. “If Al needs a break, if Rob needs a break, total utility. I didn’t come here demanding a certain type of role. It’s just to fill the gaps and help this team win a championship.”

MAZZULA DIDN’T seem interested in getting too sentimental on Sunday.

Suddenly thrust into the Celtics’ big chair less than two weeks ago, after Ime Udoka was suspended for the entire season, Mazzulla made his NBA head coaching debut in Sunday’s preseason opener against the Hornets. But the 34-year-old was all business.

Asked what his feelings were as he entered his first game as a head coach, Mazzulla was only focused on the job at hand.

“Just carry over. We had four good days of practice,” he said. “We have an identity. We know what we’re playing for. We know what we’re trying to get to, and it starts today. You can’t skip steps. We’ve all said that, but now we have to prove that. So I think that’s kind of what we’re focused on.”

It was only a preseason game, but Sunday’s 134-93 rout of the Hornets reflected everything that’s been learned of Mazzulla in the 10 days since he was named the Celtics’ interim coach. He didn’t seem overwhelmed. He seemed cool and calm. And like some of his players have said over the first week of training camp, he looked like a natural as he roamed the sideline for the first time.

“I thought he was terrific. I thought he was great. I thought he was composed,” said Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon. “I thought he had some excellent out of timeout plays. I thought he did an excellent job. It’s going to continue to get tougher for him, continue to get tougher for us as we get to the regular season and teams start really scouting us we play high-level competition, but I think me and all my teammates have the utmost confidence in him to be ready for that and keep us motivated and continue to prepare us the right way.”

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