The status of Reggie Jackson – when he might come back, why he should come back, how his return affects the Pistons – tops the agenda in the latest edition of Pistons Mailbag.
Dwayne (@DwaynePierceII): Any word on when Reggie Jackson is coming back?
Stan Van Gundy said last week he hoped Jackson would be ready to practice on Sunday before the Pistons embark on a six-game road trip. On Tuesday, he took part in a brisk 20-minute shooting drill, a day after he played one on one with one of the team’s video coordinators, Jordan Brink, who played at Calvin College recently. He’s doing lateral defensive shuffle drills. There are a few more gradual steps he’s got to get to – doing contact drills with his teammates, then doing full-court drills – before he’s ready to go through a full practice. At the earliest, we could see him on Tuesday at Utah. It might be another week or so before they take the plunge. They’re going to make sure Jackson is comfortable this time after feeling they pushed it a little too hard last season when he missed the season’s first 21 games with a knee injury that required a platelet-rich plasma injection.
Hevvy (Harper Woods, Mich.): I keep hearing the team will be better when Reggie Jackson comes back. I disagree. He was playing earlier when they lost six in a row. How about Chauncey Billups as general manager?
He was also the starting point guard for a 19-14 team that was sitting in the No. 4 playoff position when he went out. They beat Indiana by 21 points the night he was injured and Jackson had 13 assists against one turnover in 21 minutes of playing time before going down. They’re 10-21 since then. You’re going to have to come up with something better than “he was the point guard during a losing streak” to convince me that Reggie Jackson’s presence doesn’t help the Pistons. But he has to be a fully healthy Jackson and I’m not sure we’re going to get to see that for much, if at all, when he returns from what is now a 10-week absence. As for Billups as a general manager, it’s certainly possible he could take over without having spent a day working in the front office in any capacity and be brilliant. Dan Gilbert, Cleveland owner, was by credible accounts willing to give him the Cavs job last summer. But for all of Billups’ basketball smarts and the respect he’s engendered over his two-plus decades association with the NBA, it’s still a leap of faith to turn a front office over to someone who’s never spent a day on that side of the curtain in any capacity.
Steven (@steven_welling): At this point, is there really any benefit to having Reggie Jackson try to play this season? To avoid re-injury, shouldn’t they shut him down for the season?
I’d say getting a few handfuls of games to play with Blake Griffin would be a pretty big benefit. Their relationship and their chemistry is going to be a pretty big ingredient to the success of next season’s team. Starting that process now, gauging how they play off of each other and putting it on tape for all to study and provide an off-season for reaction and adjustment to that would be a pretty good benefit. Allowing Jackson to play and ease whatever doubts might exist – in his mind or in that of the front office and coaching staff – about his ability to come back from this injury would be another. On that last point, he’s only coming back when he says he’s ready and he says he also learned from last season to not rush that process. So if he comes back, he’s ready to come back. And the Pistons would have no reason to hold him back and at least one compelling reason to clear the path for his return. Oh, and then there’s the fact that a healthy Reggie Jackson can still help them win games. Even though their playoff odds have been battered by the 2-9 streak, if they start winning games and somebody within reach ahead of them hits a streak like that … well, I’m sayin’ there’s a chance.
Derrick (Shelby Twp., Mich.): It seemed that before the All-Star break, Luke Kennard was playing more and in the rotation. But now he seems on the outs. Is it because of his defensive liabilities that he’s not playing more?
February was a pretty tough month for the rookie and Stan Van Gundy’s expectation was that he’d come back from the All-Star break playing like the guy from December and January. He was in the rotation when the Pistons played Boston, Charlotte and Toronto in the first three games out of the break and scored just two points while taking only seven shots over 39 minutes in those three games. After shooting 44 percent from the 3-point arc in December and January, Kennard slumped to 33 percent in February. His scoring went from 8.1 a game in January to 4.5 in February. Here’s what Van Gundy said last week when he decided to go with Langston Galloway as the backup to Reggie Bullock: “It started before (the All-Star break). I thought it was a pretty simple case of a guy coming and playing 57 games and the last 11 were in 19 days before the break and really being physically worn down. I was really looking forward to coming back. I thought we’d get back to Luke playing with great energy and that has not happened. He says that he finds himself thinking too much out there, but that’s been my concern more than the shooting numbers or anything else. He’s just not attacking the game with an energy and a confidence like he was earlier. Hopefully he’ll get back to that. But I talked to him a little bit before the Toronto game and I didn’t really see an adjustment. This isn’t a guy who’s lazy. He’s not going out and not trying or doesn’t care, but for some reason he’s not playing at a high enough energy level.”
Adam (@livethe fan): Odds SVG keeps his job if the Pistons miss the playoffs?
Written this before, but it’s a decision – if there’s one to be made, since Stan Van Gundy has a year remaining on his contract – solely in the hands of owner Tom Gores. Any speculation about what he’s thinking about be just that – guesswork. He’s been fully supportive of Van Gundy throughout their tenure. He’s also been clear that his intent is to bring a championship contender to Detroit. Whether he feels that mission has gone off track – and he hasn’t given any indications that’s the case – or if he believes a healthy Reggie Jackson added to a team that recently acquired Blake Griffin is best led by the person who oversaw the acquisition of both is something only he could answer.
Peter (Jackson, Mich.): Blake Griffin has lost much of his athleticism and obviously does not have a reliable outside shot to compensate for the loss. Opposing teams just dare him to shoot from beyond 18 feet. I have never seen a player get so many wide-open looks. Unfortunately, he cannot hit them. This trade is going to kill the Pistons for years unless we can move Blake and his enormous contract.
Great players have always made the transition as they age to taking their game farther from the basket. The first conversation I had with an NBA scout way back in the mid-’80s was about exactly that subject in relation to then-Bucks great Sidney Moncrief, who came to the NBA as something of a poor man’s Michael Jordan – an explosive slasher and powerful dunker. Jordan himself made the transition, becoming a deadly post player and a proficient 3-point shooter in the latter half of his Bulls career. LeBron James has done it. Griffin started putting up more 3-point shots by a good margin this season and was right around league average with the Clippers, which probably was better than anyone could have expected for a guy who played mostly from 15 feet and in for the bulk of his career. My expectation is that Griffin will age well – if he can avoid the nagging injuries that have afflicted him over recent seasons. He’s not had anything debilitating that should rapidly erode his athleticism, which is still well above average if not quite to the surreal levels he brought with him to the NBA. The obvious appeal of Griffin’s athleticism has for the past four or five years masked his skill level, which is also very high. Was there risk in making the trade for Griffin? Sure. Unless you’re getting a no-doubt Hall of Famer on a rookie contract, there’s inherent risk in any deal of that magnitude. But it stops well short of a reckless trade. You didn’t use that word, but it sure seems that was your characterization of it. I’d ascribe his start with the Pistons – still very good, by the numbers, aside from the subpar shooting percentage – to small sample size and, even more than that, the vast adjustment – him to a new team and system, and even more than that, new teammates to him – the trade required. Since his discussion with Stan Van Gundy to be more assertive after last week’s Orlando game, Griffin has scored 31 and 25 points.
Robert (Sacramento): What is the possibility for us to see an NBA team in Seattle in the future?
From your email to God’s ears, Robert. Seattle was really close to getting your team, the Sacramento Kings, until a last-minute arena deal was pulled together to save Sacramento. There is speculation that franchises in New Orleans and Memphis, to name two cities with relatively scant corporate bases and potential bottom-line issues, could be candidates for relocation but there’s nothing imminent on any front with regard to that. But Seattle is starting to make moves to attract an NHL expansion team and there’s every reason it will be at or very near the front of the line for the next NBA team looking to make a move.