Jonas: ‘Today Felt Great’

Jerebko gets feet wet, senses his feel for game returning

Jonas Jerebko says his feel for the game is returning after missing a year to injury.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
CLEVELAND – Jonas Jerebko’s Achilles tendon is so fully healed, he says it actually feels better than it did before he tore it in the 2010 preseason opener, costing him all of what should have been his second NBA season.

He’s added noticeable definition to his upper body and says he feels great. But you don’t spend more than a year removed from real basketball – full court, five on five – and not feel some effects.

So Jerebko grins when he talks about his 2011 debut, the 17 minutes he spent on the court at The Palace last week in the preseason opener before fouling out.

“I had a tough game last game, but it was the first game in, I don’t know, 15 months or something like that,” he said after Monday’s practice before the Pistons flew to Cleveland for tonight’s preseason finale. “I’m not worried about it. Practice felt really good today, so I’ll be ready for tomorrow.”

“It takes time,” Lawrence Frank said. “I don’t care who you are. Look at anyone who’s had a layoff like that. Some guys, it takes months. It’ll happen.”

Once the Pistons made the decision to withhold Jerebko for the entire season last spring, they decided to err on the side of caution with him through the off-season leading to the July 1 lockout. Jerebko said he would focus on rehabilitation and conditioning and avoid on-court basketball except for individual drills. He almost lived up to his word.

“During the summer, I was trying not to play five on five,” he said, “but there were a couple of games where I went in and played the point guard spot and tried not to get in contact. I don’t even think about it any more. It actually feels better than it did before. I’m just out there playing.”

The Pistons did very little up-and-down, five-on-five basketball in the days of training camp leading to last week’s opener, so it’s no wonder Jerebko was something of a fish out of water. He finished with four points, two rebounds, two assists and a steal in addition to the six fouls, perhaps the best indication that his timing was amiss. But after three more days of practice, with increased full-court play, he feels it starting to turn around.

“It’s definitely coming back,” he said. “I haven’t played five-on-five basketball since training camp started and that was my first five-on-five basketball. I’m feeling so much better. Today felt great. I’ve just got to go out and show it tomorrow.”

  • Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva will miss Tuesday’s game, Frank said, due to excused personal reasons. There was an outside chance, he said, that Villanueva could make it. Frank said that would mean more minutes tonight than the coaches had planned for Jason Maxiell.

  • The starters tonight will be rookie Brandon Knight and Austin Daye at guard, with Greg Monroe at center and Jerebko and Tayshaun Prince at forward. Prince probably will play only in the first half. Rodney Stuckey will come off the bench after missing the first preseason game. Stuckey was re-signed on Saturday and has had three days of practices.