Reggie Jackson’s best move as Pistons’ starting point guard: Connecting with Andre Drummond

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BOSTON – Reggie Jackson, explaining how the Pistons have welcomed him, got interrupted.

“Hey, Reggie,” Andre Drummond said with a friendly tone from a couple lockers away.

“What up, big fella?” Jackson responded.

Jackson, acquired from the Thunder just before the trade deadline, has been up-and-down in 15 games with the Pistons. He’s averaging 15.3 points, 8.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game with Detroit, but also 3.2 turnovers and shooting just 38.9 percent from the field and 27.5 percent on 3-pointers.

But if there’s one thing Jackson has clearly done right, it’s bond with Drummond.

Drummond is the franchise player, and there’s a decent case the Pistons hired Stan Van Gundy in part because he helped mold a similar player in Dwight Howard. Everything revolves around Drummond.

And Jackson seems like a good fit with the budding star.

Detroit’s new point guard, despite playing fewer than half as many with Drummond this season as Brandon Jennings, has already thrown Drummond more alley-oop dunks than Jennings did. You can watch all 15:

Jackson said spending time off the court with Drummond has been key.

“The majority of time that we’ve spent hanging out has allowed us to both feel a little more comfortable opening up to each other,” Jackson said. “If there’s something he likes to do on the court, he relays it to me. If there’s a way I like to play in the pick-and-roll, I relay it to him. I think just two open-minded individuals who are just trying to find ways to be better players, be better teammates and trying to lead this organization in the right direction.”

There have been questions whether Jackson is the right guy to lead the Pistons, or any organization, forward.

Jackson made no secret of his desire to become a starter while stuck behind Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, reportedly requesting a trade and then refusing to play in a game because he hadn’t yet been dealt.

“Whenever I got my shot is when I was going to get my shot. I was just vocal about what I wanted my shot to be,” Jackson said. “Some people were mad about that. Some people understood where I was coming from. But it didn’t matter where I was going to be at. I was always going to go out there and compete and do my best.”

Nobody has questioned Jackson’s effort in Detroit.

He was so excited for his first game, he made himself sick:

Jackson said he put too much pressure on himself to play like “an ideal point guard, which I don’t think anybody in the world knows what that is.”

“I think you can assign it to all the naysayers,” Jackson said. “So, I had to stop worrying about what everybody else thinks, pretend not to care too much about what’s out there.

“One thing I definitely learned from Russell is, don’t listen. Don’t listen. Don’t pay attention to them. Who cares? Just go out there and be yourself, and they’ll find a way to try to build around you.”

Jackson settled down from there, though he’s still adjusting to playing starter’s minutes. He’s also adapting to new teammates without the benefit of training camp or numerous practices.

Tayshaun Prince – who has given Jackson tips on how Mike Conley handled playing with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in Memphis – said Jackson has benefitted lately from improved spacing with Greg Monroe out a few games due to injury. That has often left Jackson to work with Drummond and three shooters. Prince said Jackson can still make it worth both interior-focused bigs, even if playing with only one comes easier right now, and Van Gundy still says he hopes Monroe returns.

But it has long seemed likely Monroe leaves as an unrestricted free agent this summer. If he does and the Pistons replace him with a stretch four – someone like Anthony Tolliver, who has started in Monroe’s absence – the Jackson-Drummond pairing could benefit.

The Pistons have scored 105.6 points points per 100 possessions since Jackson’s arrival, according to nbawowy!.

  • Drummond and Jackson with Monroe: 104.1
  • Drummond and Jackson without Monroe: 114.9

It’s probably not a coincidence Jackson has looked markedly better lately. His last four games:

“He’s playing very, very well now,” Van Gundy said. “The last four games, he’s been outstanding, making plays and creating shots for us. So, you’ve to be very, very happy with that.”

Jackson will become a restricted free agent this summer, and he deflects any question about his offseason without giving even a hint of his plans.

He’ll likely wind up back in Detroit, though. The Pistons traded for him for a reason, and Van Gundy (perhaps foolishly) said the rest of this season wasn’t a tryout for Jackson. Besides, even if it were a tryout, Van Gundy said he hasn’t learned anything about Jackson since acquiring him that he didn’t already know. A point-guard hungry team with cap space like the Knicks or Lakers could test the Pistons’ resolve by signing Jackson to a large offer sheet, but that seems unlikely.

No matter where Jackson signs, it’ll likely be somewhere he has a clear path starting at point guard. He’s living that dream now and happily says things like, “We know we’re the head of the snake. I think all 30 starting point guards in the league know that.”

But this transition to starting point guard hasn’t been ideal.

“Nah, if it worked out the way I wanted it to, we’d probably be in the fifth spot in the playoffs,” said Jackson, who despite leading the Pistons to wins in three of their last four, has a 4-11 record with Detroit.

The losses haven’t been easy to take. It wasn’t easy for him in Oklahoma City, either.

But Jackson is looking toward the future, and for him, that starts with teammates like Drummond.

“I want to be the most-winningest and just one of the best point guards to ever do it,” Jackson said. “I don’t know about the world necessarily, but I want my teammates, when it’s all said and done, I want them to be like, ‘He was a great point guard for our team, a great teammate, a great leader for our team.’ So, if I can leave that mark, I’ll be happy.

Carmelo Anthony has 18, but Giannis Antetokounmpo’s triple-double leads Bucks to win

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had his second triple-double of the season and the Milwaukee Bucks beat Carmelo Anthony and the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers 137-129 on Thursday night.

Antetokounmpo had 24 points, 19 rebounds and a career-high 15 assists to lead the Bucks to their sixth straight victory. Antetokounmpo, who also had a triple-double in the season opener, has 16 career triple-doubles. Milwaukee is 14-2 in those games.

Eric Bledsoe added 30 points and six assists in the Bucks’ highest-scoring game of the season.

After scoring 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting in 24 minutes in his season debut Tuesday night against the Pelicans, Anthony had 10 points in the first half Thursday. The 10-time All-Star finished with 18 points (6-of-15 shooting) and seven rebounds for the Blazers, who were without Hassan Whiteside (hip), Damian Lillard (back), Zach Collins (shoulder) and Jusuf Nurkic (leg).

CJ McCollum scored a game-high 37 points and Skal Labissiere added 22 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks off the bench for Portland. The Trail Blazers lost their third straight game and seventh of the last nine against the Bucks, including sixth straight in Milwaukee.

The Bucks made their first seven shots, including three 3s, and led 17-6. Milwaukee never trailed.

The Bucks also had their highest first-half total, leading 72-58.

Report: Knicks not looking to make early-season coaching change with David Fizdale

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It didn’t take a Kremlinologist to read into what Knicks president Steve Mills said at his forced by the owner impromptu press conference 10 games into the NBA season:

Coach David Fizdale was in trouble. Big trouble.

It may not just be immediate, reports Marc Berman at the New York Post.

Mills wanted to see “consistent effort” and he’s gotten it. Indications are the coach’s hot seat is cooler halfway through this 10-game trial. Their record is 2-3 since the James Dolan-inspired conference, but could easily be 4-1 (they blew big leads to Charlotte, losing on a last-second 3-pointer, and, of course, had Philly dead in the water)…

The Knicks had to really sink south for a coaching change to be made by Game 20. Indications are it was far-fetched for a change to be made this early anyway. Was owner James Dolan, who has given Fizdale private reassurances, really going to let president Mills hire a new coach from the outside on a long-term deal with Fizdale still having at least one season fully guaranteed on his pact for 2020-21? Sources indicated the major deterrent to making a change at Thanksgiving was the sketchy alternative of promoting one of the assistants – Jud Buechler, Keith Smart or Kaleb Canales.

Good luck finding anyone who thinks Fizdale is safe long term in New York (and for the record, Smart has been an NBA head coach before, there are worse choices).

However, making a mid-season coaching change should really only happen for a couple of reasons. One is that the situation is so bad, so toxic, that it could poison the team into future seasons. The other is that there is a coach available on the sidelines that the team sees as “the man” going forward and they want to snap him up before someone else does (the Kings hiring George Karl comes to mind, although he turned out not to be “the man” they needed).

Not sure either of those situations applies to the Knicks and Fizdale. A move is more likely in the offseason.

However, predict James Dolan’s moods at your own risk.

Cavaliers’ new jerseys feature a big ol’ feather

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The Cavaliers rank near the top of the NBA by taking 19% of their total shots outside the restricted area while still in the paint. But Cleveland has converted just a middling 41% of attempts in that floater/runner range.

Maybe these uniforms will help the Cavs find a more feathery touch.

Though not in so many words, the Cavaliers actually stuck a feather on their jerseys and called it macaroni.

Jarrett Allen denies Kyrie Irving rumors, “He acts like a normal teammate”

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It hasn’t taken long for the “Kyrie Irving isn’t a good leader in Brooklyn” rumor mill to start up. The Nets 6-8 start combined with a desire in some corners of the NBA (and NBA Twitter) to pile on Irving has started the talk. Whether those rumors are just smoke or there’s some fire there depends on who you ask.

It was ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith who brought the topic to the forefront again on First Take.

Just as a refresher, anything Smith says should be taken with a full box of Morton’s Kosher salt. His job is to stir things up. That doesn’t mean he has no connections.

Nets center Jarrett Allen did an AMA on Bleacher Report and shot down the idea Irving is a bad influence in the locker room.

He acts like a normal teammate. People say that he has mood swings, but that’s a complete lie. He wants to see us succeed and do well if anything.

Allen added this when asked to compare playing with Irving vs. D'Angelo Russell.

They’re kind of different. Kyrie can score from anywhere, even without me setting up the pick-and-roll. DLo…we worked well; if he didn’t score, he’d kick it to me to score.

The Nets are a franchise inhabiting a strange space this season. First, this ultimately is Kevin Durant‘s team, but he doesn’t really get the keys until he can play, which almost certainly means next season. That makes Irving an interim Alpha on that team, but that’s an unusual dynamic.

Second, this is a Nets team that has rebounded from as low as it can get in the NBA to being a place Irving and KD wanted to play by establishing a culture, an identity. This is a lunch pail group of players who were selfless and bought into the team’s ideas and concepts. Nobody was a superstar, it was team first. Except, in come two superstars who bring their own ways of doing things — and the Nets can’t mess with that. There are compromises that need to go on for both sides, with Irving/KD bending to the Nets some, but the Nets giving them superstar treatment.

All of that creates friction that is going to rub some people the wrong way. Plus, Irving is a unique personality who is going to do things his way, and that will bother others. Some of those people will talk to the media, but that doesn’t mean everyone — or even a majority — feel the same way. It’s usually people who feel aggrieved who want to vent.

How all this plays out in Brooklyn is going to be something to watch. But the ultimate test is next season, not this one.