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Pistons News: Reggie Jackson ready to be a mentor; Darrun Hilliard, Ish Smith impress prior to training camp

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Training camp is getting closer!

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Jackson: With veterans gone, we need to step up and carry the torch

Much speculation has gone into how the young Pistons would fare without the steadying veteran presence exuded from Joel Anthony, Steve Blake and Anthony TolliverIn an earlier edition of the Roundup, it was revealed Stan Van Gundy found the team's lack of veteran leadership to be their biggest flaw heading into the season, and a lingering question mark had been left regarding who would be the player(s) to step up. Thanks to the Detroit News' Rod Beard we now have part of an answer:

"That's kind of how it goes; we have to step up," said point guard Reggie Jackson, 27, entering his sixth season. "The organization put that upon us and myself to step up this year and be an even more impactful leader and more of a voice of reason and direction for our guys.

"I know I have a little more burden on my shoulders but it's something I asked for and something I wanted. We'll figure it out collectively. We did have steady rocks with Joel Anthony, Anthony Tolliver and Steve Blake, who really watched over us," Jackson said. "Unfortunately, they've moved on and we have to find a way to get it done.

"Hats off to those guys for everything they taught us. We're definitely appreciative of it and we'll definitely use it in the future. They're a big part of building the culture here. Now it's time for us to carry the torch."

Jackson establishing himself as the leader of the team both on and off the court was what many expected, and it seems likely he will be expecting his teammates to follow his lead and the standard set by the team's previous vets. Could this be a team that can work as a cohesive unit that mentors itself? The squad, although young, lacks no number of high-character players, many of whom were chosen by Van Gundy due to their leadership qualities and game experience.

A trend has appeared in his draft choices, with the coach and executive seemingly preferring to select the best talent available in the first round (Stanley Johnson, Henry Ellenson), and a player with solid credentials and more college experience in the second (Spencer Dinwiddie, Darrun Hilliard, Michael Gbinije). In free agency, Van Gundy and Jeff Bower have made moves that further back this up, the additions of hard-working, often overlooked players has always paid off in the end (Caron Butler, Anthony Tolliver, Joel Anthony), as have the team's outstanding trade hauls (Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock).

There is certainly no lack of passion, talent, emotion and drive within the current roster, it just remains to be seen if it can make up for the lack the in-game presence of older, more experienced players. Reggie Jackson seems to think this team as currently constructed can support itself. I believe him.

Darrun Hilliard, Ish Smith, others drawing early praise as training camp nears

The back injury Darrun Hilliard suffered prior to Summer League doesn't seem to have altered the progress he'd made up until then, with Van Gundy taking note of the second-year guard's form as he continues to recover with the team's trainers. Per Rod Beard:

"(The trainers) are trying to limit his workload a little bit but for the most part, he's been doing everything," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "He's actually doing pretty well."

In a separate article by Beard, Stanley Johnson gives an insight into how some of the team's voluntary workouts have turned out so far, and how several players have impressed the sophomore forward. On new acquisition Ish Smith:

"We've played and I feel like Ish is going to be something like Brandon (Jennings) with his ability to pass, see and change pace to get the game going — it's going to be special to watch," Johnson said. "Especially with guys like me and (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) running the lane."

On Aron Baynes:

"Aron is much improved, can use his right and left in the post with a couple moves and he and I are always good in pick-and-roll," Johnson said. "I'm excited to play with all these guys. It's going to be interesting to see how coach (Stan) Van Gundy plays us because I know it's not going to be a traditional first unit and second unit because we're so talented and we're eight or nine deep."

On Chad Ford's offseason grade for the Pistons:

"People can say we're ninth, fourth, first or 12th — it doesn't matter," Johnson said. "All that matters is when we go out there and play. They're grading us on the offseason that we didn't get any starters. We got better in-house."

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