Rough Start for Reggie Jackson in Detroit
Reggie Jackson’s stint with the Detroit Pistons hasn’t gotten off to the best start.
In his first game with his new team, Jackson missed his first eight shots and threw up on the sideline when he checked out for the first time. After the game, the 24-year-old admitted he was “too hyped” and Stan Van Gundy, the team’s head coach and president of basketball operations, told reporters that the point guard “had so much nervous energy.” Jackson settled down in the second half, finishing his debut with 17 points (shooting 7-18 from the field), five assists and five rebounds in a win over the Washington Wizards.
Unfortunately, that has been Jackson’s only victory since landing in Detroit, as the team has dropped eight straight games including embarrassing losses to the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers. Part of the struggles are due to the team adjusting to the moves that were made at the deadline, acquiring two new starters (Jackson and Tayshaun Prince) and shipping out four players (D.J. Augustin, Kyle Singler, Jonas Jerebko and Luigi Datome). The group is trying to get on the same page and learn on the fly.
But Detroit being wildly inconsistent isn’t anything new. They started the year losing 19 of their first 22 games. Then, they waived forward Josh Smith and made headlines by winning 12 of 15 games. Losing Brandon Jennings to a torn Achilles was unfortunate, but it seemed like the team could finish their season strong after landing Jackson. Instead, the Pistons continue their up-and-down campaign and currently sit at 23-41 (the seventh-worst record in the NBA).
Jackson has also been somewhat inconsistent too, but that’s not too much of a surprise considering he’s getting acclimated to a new team and adjusting to a new role as one of Detroit’s focal points.
Through nine games with the Pistons, Jackson is averaging 15.1 points, 7.0 assists and 4.4 rebounds in 31.4 minutes (all of which are career-highs). However, his shooting has left a lot to be desired, as he’s hitting just 37 percent from the field and 23.3 percent from three-point range.
On some nights, he has posted excellent numbers, such as his 22-point, nine-assist, eight-rebound performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 24. Other nights, he has disappeared, like when he had two points (on 1-9 shooting from the field), three assists and five fouls in the loss to the Lakers on Tuesday. Van Gundy, who is always blunt, has been critical of Jackson when he hasn’t delivered.
“He didn’t look good at any point tonight,” Van Gundy said of Jackson after the loss to the Lakers, according to Pistons.com. “He just wasn’t in the game. Then he started forcing things. Seems to me he was predetermining what he was going to do. He didn’t play with any instinct whatsoever. Just a really, really rough night for him.”
Jackson seems to enjoy playing for Van Gundy and believes his new head coach will help him become a better player in the long run.
“Playing for Stan has been a change,” Jackson told Pistons.com. “He’s a great basketball mind, he sees a lot of what’s going on in the game and how to take advantage of things. He knows what it takes to get everyone involved and going, and we constantly talk about what we see on the court. I think he can only help my game expand that much further and help me on this journey to be one of the best point guards ever.
“Him finding me and choosing me to be part of this team has been a great match. I just hope to continue to expand [my game] and we can build a great relationship. … As a point guard, you’re an extension of the coach and your job is to motivate each guy and get their full potential out of them each and every night.”
Even though the Pistons have dropped eight of nine games with Jackson, the point guard is optimistic about the team’s future and loves the young talent that’s around him. Jackson, Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Spencer Dinwiddie are all 24 years old or younger, and Detroit’s young core could be very good in a few years (especially since they’ll add another lottery talent from this year’s draft class).
“The core of our team is very young,” Jackson said in a video interview on Pistons.com. “I just love the way, from our core to every other guy on the team, we all interact. There have been some tough losses, but we all want what’s best for the team and what’s best for the next guy. We’re all figuring out how to play together and going forward I think we can really put the league on notice and be a scary team to be reckoned with.”
The point guard’s new teammates have been impressed with his skill set and like what he brings to the team.
“He’s a great penetrator,” Monroe told reporters when asked about Jackson. “He gets to the rim really well coming off screens as long as he’s aggressive. He has size, he has athleticism to score over bigger guys, makes plays in the lane. I think he’s going to fit in well.”
Jackson seems excited to be in the starting lineup and viewed as a team’s focal point for the first time in his NBA career. He’s being handed the reins to a franchise after being in a reserve role with the Thunder and often playing in the shadows of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He said he had only been “given the keys” to a team one other time, during his final season at Boston College under head coach Steve Donahue.
In recent years, it became clear that Jackson wanted an increased role and the chance to make a name for himself – rather than just serving as Oklahoma City’s sixth man. James Harden had a similar experience with the Thunder, and he obviously emerged as a star when he was traded to the Houston Rockets. Jackson hoped this could be his time to shine and said as much when he arrived in Detroit.
“Happy to be here,” Jackson told reporters shortly after the trade. “I was in a great organization, great situation before, I enjoyed it, but I’m just happy to be here – happy to possibly be the starting point guard and try to get this team running. … Once I was on the phone with Stan and I got to talk to him about the vision and what we’re trying to do moving forward, I broke down and started crying tears of joy. I was happy. It’s something I’ve always envisioned. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. If it does, it does. But I’ve always wanted the chance to try and make something special.”
So far, things haven’t exactly been special in Detroit. However, this is a talented team with a very good young core and one of the better coaches in the league, so the future should be better than the present.
Should the NBA Do Veteran Combine Like the NFL?
On March 22, NFL decision makers will travel to Arizona for the league’s inaugural NFL Veteran Combine, which gives 100 former NFL players the chance to work out and go through combine drills in front of executives from every team in the league.
Players are put through position-specific and timed drills. The NFL decided to do this to streamline the free-agent-workout process and have them all take place in one spot with every team in attendance. The Veteran Combine presents an opportunity for fringe NFL free agents to showcase their skill set and try to earn a roster spot.
A number of notable players have agreed to participate in the inaugural Veteran Combine, such as Michael Sam, Jamaal Anderson, Felix Jones and Michael Bush among others. Free agents had to receive an invite from the NFL in order to participate (and some headlines were made when players like Tim Tebow and Vince Young didn’t receive invitations).
The NBA should follow in the NFL’s footsteps and do a Veteran Combine of their own. Currently, a number of NBA teams hold large veteran workouts that can sometimes last multiple days over the offseason, but there’s nothing official like a Veteran Combine that involves every team in the league.
In recent years, the best way for a fringe veteran to get back into the NBA has been to play in the NBA Development League and try to get called up. This route has worked for a number of former NBA players, including Gerald Green, Jamaal Tinsley, Mike James, James Johnson and Hassan Whiteside among others.
If these players had the opportunity to work out for teams at a Veteran Combine, perhaps some would have been on an NBA roster at the start of the season and wouldn’t have had to go the D-League route.
Every NBA team would love to land the next Whiteside – a player who has been overlooked only to have a breakout campaign (on a bargain contract) and become a Most Improved Player candidate.
Getting all of the league’s notable veteran free agents in one building in front of every team could help executives spot the former players who have the talent to make a comeback. The NFL may be onto something here, and it would smart of the NBA to follow in their footsteps.
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