Meeks out 12-16 weeks, but Pistons equipped to handle his loss with Bullock’s emergence
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If Reggie Bullock responds to his latest injury-created opportunity as well as he did his last, the Pistons will weather Jodie Meeks’ absence just fine.
And if Bullock’s star rises on the same improbable arc in succeeding months as far and fast as it did in his whirlwind October, he’ll be playing in the All-Star game in February and be in the MVP discussion by April.
Bullock went from the roster bubble in early October to not just winning the job with room to spare but also convincing the Pistons to pick up his fourth-year option for 2016-17. He did it by performing with remarkable consistency and efficiency after injuries struck down the two players in competition for the 15th spot on the roster, Adonis Thomas and Cartier Martin, averaging 10 points in 19 preseason minutes a game while shooting 52 percent from the 3-point line.
Now comes the injury to Meeks – a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metatarsal of his right foot, expected to keep him out 12 to 16 weeks. Stan Van Gundy has options – he could have juggled his rotation to include more minutes behind Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for Stanley Johnson – but the eye-opening preseason Bullock put into evidence made it an easy call.
“Reggie will be our primary guy at the two,” Van Gundy said after Friday’s morning shootaround for tonight’s game with Chicago. “He’s ready to go. We’ve got 100 percent confidence in him.”
There’s never a great time to lose a key player, but at least Meeks’ injury comes on the heels of Bullock’s impressive preseason. He hasn’t had a month of sitting around getting only spot minutes and allowing the momentum he gathered over the past four weeks to stall.
“Not saying it’s great that he ends up going down. That’s still my teammate,” Bullock said. “I know what he brought to the game. It’s good to stay in this groove that I was in with it being so close right here from preseason. It’s all about me just going out and doing the things I was doing in preseason and make it continue to happen and make the coaches still continue to believe in me, make them believe they picked up my option for a reason.”
So the rotation won’t change much, if at all. What will change is the play calling for the second unit.
“We’ll have to find that as we go, find some stuff to run for that second unit,” Van Gundy said. “Jodie has been a big focal point in terms of when we have to run sets in that second unit. We used to run Jodie off a lot of screens. He was probably the go-to guy when we had to get into half-court offense, so that’ll have to change a little bit.”
Van Gundy talked to Meeks, who missed the first 22 games of last season with a lower back injury, on Thursday, he said, before he underwent surgery to repair the fracture.
“He was in good spirits – not too down,” Van Gundy said. “A little disappointed, obviously, to have two years in a row like this. Feels a little snake bit, but he was in good spirits.”
One of Bullock’s strengths, beyond his 3-point shooting, is that he’s a willing, decisive passer who should help the second unit’s ball movement.
“A player went down and it’s time for the whole team – not just myself – to step up. I know the thing that Jodie brought to the game was shooting,” Bullock said. “I’ve just got to go out and play my game. Just go out and do the things I’ve been doing in the preseason and taking my shots and defending at a high altitude and doing the things that Coach wants me to do.”