Rehab experience lends Jackson perspective; Pistons add Buycks for full season

Reggie Jackson is off of crutches as he continues to recover from a grade 3 ankle sprain suffered in a Dec. 26 win over Indiana.
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – Physically, Reggie Jackson is on schedule 17 days after suffering a severe ankle sprain. Mentally, he’s ahead of schedule.

Or he’s at least ahead of where he was mentally last season when he missed the first 21 games of the season as he recovered from a knee injury. It was at least as much the mental burden – the pressure Jackson put on himself to assume the same heavy share of the offensive workload from day one of his return – as the condition of his knee that eventually led Stan Van Gundy to shut Jackson down for the season’s final nine games.

This year, different injury, different perspective.

“I guess you learn how to deal better,” Jackson said Friday. “But maybe I’m just getting older. There’s more than basketball. I’m going to do everything I can to get back to the court. When the time’s ready and when it permits, I’ll be back. I’m not going to stress myself out trying to force something that I can’t control.”

Van Gundy will be a little more cautious, too, whenever Jackson – who suffered a grade 3 ankle sprain on Dec. 26 with a six- to eight-week timetable given to re-evaluate the injury – is cleared to play. He’s off crutches now, though he remains in a walking boot.

“We’ll just have to see where he is,” Van Gundy said. “But hopefully we’ll not have him in there big minutes until he’s ready to play big minutes – mentally and physically. I think last year I underestimated the mental part of it with him.”

In the meantime, the sense of crisis has been calmed by the play of Dwight Buycks. Buycks got the ultimate stamp of approval on Friday when the Pistons converted Bucyks to a standard NBA contract with still more than three weeks left of his 45-day allotment as a two-way player.

Buycks is averaging 8.8 points and 2.4 assists in 15 minutes a game while shooting 50 percent overall and 46 percent from the 3-point line.

“He’s a tough kid, but we did know that,” Van Gundy said. “We need him to take care of the ball better and we need him to improve defensively, particularly off the ball with rotations. But I like what he’s done. He’s a gritty kid who can score the ball and get in the paint, not scared of anything or anyone. It’s surprising a guy of his caliber hasn’t gotten more opportunity.”

Buycks, 28, went undrafted out of Marquette but stuck as a rookie with Toronto in 20013 and played briefly with the Lakers the following season. He’s played in several European leagues and spent the past three seasons in China. Jackson and Buycks were teammates in an Oklahoma City training camp and Summer League.

“That’s my man since we’ve been in OKC. I’m definitely happy for him,” Jackson said. “He’s been playing very free and he’s been keeping us afloat.”

Van Gundy said the Pistons acted now to convert Buycks – a move they’d already decided would come at the end of his 45-day window, anyway – because it allows them the opportunity to fill Buycks’ spot, as well, with the clock ticking on the window to offer two-way deals.

“You’ve only got until Jan. 15, maybe, is the last day you can sign a guy to a two-way (contract) for this year. We’ve got three more days to make a move if you want to sign a guy to a two-way.”

Van Gundy said the Buycks contract also extends beyond the regular season, which would allow the Pistons more time to decide on his future.

The Pistons scouted the G League Showcase near Toronto this week and Van Gundy said general manager Jeff Bower and his staff have “some guys that they like a little” though there’s less than ironclad certainty that they’ll act to sign another two-way player.

The Pistons have gone 3-4 since Jackson’s injury, though five of the seven games came on the road. After Saturday’s game at Chicago to mark the halfway point of the season, the Pistons will have played 23 of 41 games away from home. They’re currently in the No. 7 seed, though just 1½ games behind Miami, currently No. 4.

They might again be without Stanley Johnson against the Bulls. After returning from a five-game absence with a strained hip flexor, Johnson couldn’t practice on Friday.

“He felt tight. He didn’t practice,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t know what that means for tomorrow. I think everything is day to day with him right now.”