Jackson chooses best long-term solution for knee as Pistons rally to make do without him
David Liam Kyle (NBAE/Getty)
Sixteen days before the regular-season opener, Reggie Jackson will be in New York having a platelet-rich plasma injection to address left knee tendinitis.
That’s not the way the Pistons hoped to begin a season that launched with a “why not us?” training camp mantra, but they’re not exactly adopting a “why us?” victim’s mentality, either.
Stan Van Gundy is sorting out his options now that Jackson’s decision on a course of treatment lends a little more clarity to the Pistons’ predicament. They’ll have only two point guards on the roster coming out of training camp and determining who will back up elevated starter Ish Smith now becomes that much more critical.
Jackson consulted an independent doctor in New York on Thursday and Friday decided what both the specialist and Pistons team doctors had advised – the PRP treatment which carries with it the longest recovery time but also the best prognosis. He’ll have the injection on Monday and be on crutches for three to seven days. A timetable for his return probably can be established by then. Van Gundy said last week the PRP option probably would mean a six to eight week absence.
“They were all in agreement that this was the way to go,” Van Gundy said after Saturday’s morning practice on the last two-a-day session of training camp. “They talked to Reggie and his brother. They talked to Jeff (Bower, Pistons general manager) and then they talked to me after practice last Monday. That’s the way they thought we should go.”
Smith will start in each of the five remaining preseason games, Van Gundy said, with Ray McCallum Jr. and Lorenzo Brown alternating as his backup for at least the next three games. McCallum played in Thursday’s loss at Brooklyn; Brown will back up Smith in Monday’s home opener against San Antonio.
“We’ve got the six games. We’ve got the Saturday after our last exhibition game, we’re going to play another full scrimmage in here. We’ve already played three, so they’ve gotten a lot of time to show us, besides practice every day, to play in game conditions. It’s not going to be an easy decision. Those guys are both good players. They’re both, in my mind, NBA players. You’re not stretching to bring either one of them in. The way we’d love to start the year is to have them both because you want three point guards. But to do that, we’d actually have to cut somebody on a guaranteed contract. I don’t foresee that.”
Carrying only two point guards while Jackson recuperates necessitates preparing someone as an emergency point guard. Van Gundy isn’t sure there’ll be only one candidate. He’ll build a lineup where responsibility for getting the ball upcourt and the team into its offense will be shared. Darrun Hilliard and Stanley Johnson both dabbled at point guard last preseason while Steve Blake recovered from a concussion and Jackson had a minor ankle injury. Their power forwards likely will have a role, too.
“I think if we really have a problem with pressure, we’ve got some guys who we can put the ball in their hands and big guys would have a hard time playing,” Van Gundy said. “They could get us down, into some offense, but we would need to build some specific stuff. I know Henry (Ellenson) could get us into offense. I know he could. Tobias (Harris) against four men could get us into offense. Marcus (Morris). Probably even Jon (Leuer). We’ve got very good ballhandling fours.”
The silver lining for the Pistons? The first 16 days Jackson misses will cause him to miss zero regular-season games. And he has a history with PRP treatment, having undergone it in Oklahoma City in 2011.
“He’s played a lot of games and a lot of minutes and has gotten here, so I think he has good confidence in that,” Van Gundy said. “Nothing’s forever, but that’s something that worked really well for him before. I think he feels good about it.”