TORONTO – Remember the parable of the young man throwing a pebble into the pond and watching the ripples that emanate from it? The season-ending injury to Brandon Jennings – confirming Sunday what was feared on Saturday when he fell to the court and clutched at the back of his left foot: torn Achilles tendon – is like that. Except the pebble is a masonry block.
The injury turns D.J. Augustin from a luxury – a backup point guard who's shouldered starter's minutes in the past – into someone the Pistons will lean on for heavy minutes every night. It makes Spencer Dinwiddie – the second-round draft choice about whom Stan Van Gundy said he would have zero expectations for a rookie year that began with him still rehabbing his own serious injury – the backup point guard, needed for critical stretches of both halves every night.
And, perhaps most critically, it leaves a leadership and swagger void that Jennings had filled so emphatically over the past month as the Pistons converted a 5-23 start into a 12-4 stretch that thrust them back into the playoff race. Even Stan Van Gundy acknowledges the palpable confidence the Pistons have exhibited of late takes an immediate hit.
"I think a little bit, at least in the short term," he said before Sunday's game at Toronto. "Guys are sort of in that shock time right now. Brandon's a guy that probably had the most outward, visible confidence, both in himself and the team. He really thought we were going to kick everybody's butt every night and showed that on the floor. I think that gave his teammates more belief.
"He really wasn't doing that early in the year, but since Josh (Smith) has been gone and he felt empowered to take more of a leadership role, he had done that. Besides the play, that's going to have to come from somewhere. We're going to need guys to play with that kind of confidence."
Van Gundy said he and general manager Jeff Bower spoke Sunday morning in general terms about what roster moves were possible. They'll meet again Monday and delve more fully into their options.
"We need to sometime fairly soon, probably, have a third point guard on the roster as insurance," he said. "That can take many forms – D-League guy on a 10-day (contract) who gives us some insurance, you can look for a more experienced guy. But how we play is going to be dependent on those guys in the locker room. We're not probably going to go out and get somebody else who is going to come in as a starter. We've got confidence in D.J. He's played very well this year and he played well with a huge opportunity last year in Chicago. Spencer gets his opportunity. We've got confidence in those guys."
Dinwiddie has had two recent D-league stints, including three games at the recent D-League Showcase Cup, where he helped the Grand Rapids Drive get to the championship game.
"I got some meaningful minutes, got a chance to play, got a chance to play for a championship," Dinwiddie said. "Sadly, we lost, but I got to compete at a pretty high level and got to do it for 30-plus minutes a game, helped my shape a little bit. I've just got to keep pushing. Next man up."
Several teammates and Van Gundy said they'd texted Jennings, who Tweeted, "6/9 months" and "Not being able to play basketball is the worst thing" Sunday afternoon.
"He was pretty down last night," Van Gundy said of Jennings, who stayed in Milwaukee on Saturday night while the Pistons flew to Toronto, then flew to Detroit with his mother and fiancée on Sunday and had the MRI conducted. "The guy absolutely loves playing basketball, probably as much as anybody I've been around. He plays all summer. He loves being in a gym. And on top of that, he was having the best year of his career, particularly lately. So it's really tough. It's tough for us, but it's even tougher for him and I feel real bad for him because he was playing so well and then to have it end when he was on such a run is really unfortunate."