As Jennings inches closer, SVG is A-OK keeping Pistons intact and watching them grow

Brandon Jennings’ shirt was thoroughly soaked when Stan Van Gundy opened the doors to Pistons practice for reporters on Tuesday, another day closer to his return. There’s still no target date. And Van Gundy remains skeptical, though hopeful, that Jennings will hit the ground running at anything near the breakneck pace he was keeping when his Achilles tendon snapped last January on a cold Milwaukee night.

The 11-month layoff is one thing. The nature of the injury – if the ACL was once the death knell for basketball players, but today it’s lagging well behind several more devastating ones, Achilles among them – is another. But Van Gundy is intrigued by what a best-case return of Jennings would mean for a Pistons team that could use depth and consistent bench scoring – exactly what Jennings would provide.

So Jennings – and Jodie Meeks, perhaps two months from his return – is a part of the reason Van Gundy isn’t focused on looking to the trade market to address whatever he considers the Pistons’ primary needs.

But there are other parts to it, too.

“You’ve got to balance trying to get better (through trades) but building some continuity, too,” Van Gundy said. “If you look at the Memphis and the Clipper games” – two agonizing losses over the past week – “are good examples.”

Van Gundy ticked off the players Memphis had on the floor – Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green. He did the same exercise with the Clippers – J.J. Redick, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan.

“Those guys have all been together. There’s value in that. That Warrior team grew over time and there’s value in that. You have to weigh that any time you make a move. I think we’re now with the kind of people we want. Not that we don’t need to continue to build the talent base, but a big part of that is, let’s keep this group together and keep them growing. And I think we’re on the right path. I really do.”

The subject arose because Tuesday – Dec. 15 – marked the first day that the bulk of free agents who signed over the off-season could be traded under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. Given that so many dozens of players hit free agency every July 1 with the shorter contracts that were a byproduct of the last bargaining agreement, the date puts many more teams in play to even contemplate trade possibilities.

Van Gundy’s position is that the Pistons are, as ever, listening and open to being blown away, but they’re not anticipating much.

“I don’t feel compelled to do anything right now,” he said. “I like our group. Our group is good. We’ve got reasonable contracts. We’ve got a starting lineup that we have everybody back next year and it’s proven to be one of the most efficient starting lineups in the league that’s good to build around. And if we can augment that, we would look to do it. But we like the guys we have right now. I like everything about us.”

As for a report this week in the New York Post claiming Jennings was “available,” Van Gundy denied it to the same extent he would with anybody else on the roster.

“He’s no more or less available than anybody else we have, but we haven’t had one talk with anybody about him. Until he gets on the court and playing, there’s nothing to even talk about.”

More interestingly, he alluded to a long-range plan that would include Jennings.

“My preference is that when he’s fully healthy, that he’s able to help us. That’s my preference. I’ve even talked to him, a vision going forward where he helps us even beyond this. But right now, we’re just trying to get him back.”

And keeping the old gang together. And seeing where this season tinged with promise goes.