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NBA AM: Jackson Out of Westbrook’s Shadow

In OKC, Reggie Jackson was stuck in Russell Westbrook’s shadow, but he’s enjoying the light of day in Detroit.

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Reggie Jackson Adapting to Detroit Basketball

Before a recent Chicago Bulls home game, a couple of players in the visiting locker room were watching tape of a game between Chicago and the Detroit Pistons. But rather than focusing on the team and players they were going to be facing that night, both had their eyes glued to Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson.

“That kid is really, really good,” one of the players said. “He doesn’t look like much, but you have no idea just how good he really is.”

Generally speaking, Jackson doesn’t appear to be particularly formidable, at least not on the surface. He’s only 6’3 and maybe 200 pounds, but he really has come along since being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder before the deadline and has been thriving for his new team under head coach Stan Van Gundy.

Still, adjusting to a coach like Van Gundy does take some time.

“It was tough to start,” Jackson said, “Trying to figure things out, what everybody was expecting of me, how I was going to fit in and play. There were a lot of new acquisitions at the trade deadline so it made it difficult [to adjust], but I think I’m starting to find a little rhythm.”

The statistics would support that, as Jackson has seen his scoring jump nearly four points per game, from 12.8 PPG with Oklahoma City to 16.7 PPG in Detroit. Also, his assists have nearly doubled, from 4.3 APG to 8.5 APG, all in only 3.5 more minutes per game than he had been playing with the Thunder.

A big part of that is the way Jackson is being used in his new role as Detroit’s starting point guard. For the Thunder he was, at best, a complementary piece alongside Russell Westbrook, who leads the league in Usage Percentage by a wide margin this year with 38.2. It’s hard to do much in terms of points and assists when you’re playing Robin to a Batman like that.

Things obviously have been much different under Van Gundy.

“Definitely rebounding-wise you will be able to get up and push the tempo as long as you get stops because you have two big men who can rebound the ball,” Jackson said. “Offensively you can drop it down into the post and guys can finish around the rim, so it’s a little bit of a different style than what we played in OKC when I played with [Westbrook and Kevin Durant], but I’m just trying to get comfortable with it.”

That isn’t the only adjustment Jackson has had to make, however; he’s also adjusting to being the true leader of an NBA team.

“You just try to be a team guy and get to know everybody, and soak everything up like a sponge,” he said. “Everybody normally on a new team looks like they’re willing to lend some advice, so you just take everything in full stride and try to work each and every day to get adjusted to the new system and new situation.”

Detroit has won five of its last six games, which still leaves them a full four games out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference playoff picture with too little time to make up any substantial ground. Still, it’s a positive push that will help the Pistons end this season on a strong note and come back next season with the right core to return to respectability.

Magic Planning to Extend GM Rob Hennigan

The Orlando Magic still aren’t a playoff team, but that doesn’t mean Magic GM Rob Hennigan hasn’t done enough to earn a contract extension from his current employer. In fact, that’s exactly what the organization plans to do, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.

Hired in 2012, Hennigan has faced a number of really challenging issues but has weathered most storms and has left the team with one of the most promising young cores in the Eastern Conference, with Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris among others looking like the centerpieces of the team’s future.

All of those guys have come to the team under Hennigan’s watch, which started almost immediately with the Dwight Howard nightmare back in 2012. At the time, Hennigan was lambasted for not getting enough star power back for Howard (especially considering L.A. had an Andrew Bynum offer on the table), but the trade, which dumped a ton of salary and brought in Vucevic, draft picks and some other players, looks like a winner in retrospect. Bynum, who ended up in Philadelphia as a result of the Howard trade, never played meaningful basketball again.

A trade later that year sending out J.J. Redick for Tobias Harris also has turned out well, while the Oladipo pick probably has been the single biggest symbol of future optimism there. The jury is still out on rookies Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton, the latter of which was acquired using the draft picks brought over in the Howard deal, but this is a rebuilding team dripping with young talent, and Hennigan has had everything to do with that.

His contract currently runs through the end of the 2015-16 season, so an extension would keep him there beyond next season. Based on his work so far, there aren’t many people who would argue with that decision.

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.

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