The fate of the Detroit Pistons is tied to the status of Reggie Jackson’s knee — I can’t put it any more simple than that.
Detroit will go as far as Jackson’s knee can take it — the same knee with degenerative tendonosis issues, the same knee that robbed Jackson of his burst last season, and the same knee that has just wrapped up a 16-week rehab that limited Jackson to light shooting.
But, Jackson, says, everything is going according to plan.
“With my knee, I’m feeling good. With the health of it, I’m feeling great. I just got to do the best I can to take care of it. The team is doing a great job of monitoring it. I’ve had no setbacks. I’m on pace, which is to be ready by training camp,” Jackson told the Detroit Free Press.
The true test has not yet arrived, and we’ll only find out how good Jackson is once he’s fully unleashed onto the court and can start to put some stress on his knee. Hopefully for Jackson, his teammates and the organization that old explosion will finally return.
The team is certainly taking a more cautious, and smarter, approach than it did last season when the focus was on getting Jackson back on the court as soon as possible.
That decision proved disastrous as Jackson was not nearly as explosive on offense and was unplayable on defense (yet still played 1,424 minutes). Taking the long approach is smart, and being willing to bring Jackson along slowly would be prudent.
I have no doubt that Jackson’s knee is in much better shape than it was last season. But effectiveness on the court is about more than just the strength of his knee. Jackson needs to find his conditioning, his timing and his confidence.
Stan Van Gundy has already said that he will not have Jackson practice during two-a-days. I wouldn’t be surprised if he played fewer minutes, didn’t play back-to-backs or maybe even came off the bench early in the season.
Ish Smith, while ideally a backup, played admirably as a starter last season with Jackson out of the lineup. The team also added Langston Galloway and took fliers on Dwight Buycks and Luis Montero as insurance.
After experiencing the disaster of last season, I just want to see Reggie Jackson as close to 100 percent as possible. If it means Jackson doesn’t suit up on opening night as he gets both his knee and conditioning where they need to be, I am fine with that.