100 Percent

Jerebko’s Achilles holds up just fine through full-speed-ahead play

After missing last season due to injury, Jonas Jerebko and his Achilles are back in top form.
Dan Lippitt/NBAE/Getty Images
LOS ANGELES – Arnie Kander tells Jonas Jerebko he’s 100 percent, fully recovered from the October 2010 right Achilles injury that wiped out what should have been his second NBA season.

As far as Jerebko is concerned, he’s something better than 100 percent.

“He says I’m 100 percent and I feel 100 percent,” he said. “I’ve never been a right foot jumper. I feel like my leg is stronger than before. I feel better than before, actually.”

Any doubts anyone might have had that Jerebko is over the injury mentally would have been dispelled by his Sunday outing against the Los Angeles Clippers. In an overtime loss in which the Pistons were in control most of the game and likely would have won if not for a foot injury that limited Rodney Stuckey to well below recent production, Jerebko was a human bowling ball, sending Clippers bouncing as he flew around with typical boundless energy.

In a 29-minute stint necessitated in part by foul trouble to Jason Maxiell, Jerebko earned his time with 14 points and eight rebounds, a blocked shot and an assist. His feisty, physical play helped the Pistons limit Blake Griffin’s damage. Griffin put up 17 points and 11 boards in 39 minutes, but didn’t record a single dunk – the signature play that often serves as a momentum-changing moment.

“We knew it would be a tough, physical game,” Jerebko said – exactly the kind he relishes. It’s the trait that endeared Jerebko to the Pistons as they scouted him in Italy leading to the 2009 draft – there’s a fearlessness about him that reveals itself as soon as the 6-foot-10 Swede hits the floor.

But as his outing against the Clippers showed, Jerebko is more than just an “energy guy” off the bench these days. He works tirelessly with Pistons assistant coaches on his skills, launching perimeter shots and working on moves off the dribble and to the basket with either hand. He has much more confidence today in his perimeter jump shot than he did as a Pistons rookie and keeps refining a somewhat unorthodox inside game that opponents find difficult to defend. Against the Clippers, he hit a few sweeping hook shots among his six baskets.

“The first couple of shots went in and you get a little confidence going,” he said. “I try to be aggressive and just focus on the defensive end. I’m going to keep working on (his offensive game) this summer and get better and better. I had 16 months off to work on my shot – you’re going to see a little improvement, and that’s good. It’s going to get even better.”

As for the Achilles, he says it has held up remarkably well as the season has unfolded, even during the game-heavy schedule that resulted from the lockout.

“It’s the best thing on my body right now,” he said. “I feel great. It’s all the other stuff that hurts. The Achilles is no problem at all. It feels great. I do nothing extra for it.”