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:
- 23 points and 20 assists in a win over the Grizzlies
- 11 points, 10 assists and 11 rebounds in a loss to the 76ers
- 22 points and 11 assists in a win over the Bulls
- 17 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds in a win over the Celtics
“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.
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.