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

3 Comments

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.

Did Hornets GM tell Kobe Bryant on draft night, ‘We couldn’t have used you anyway,’ as Bryant claims?

Andy Hayt/NBAE via Getty Images
2 Comments

Kobe Bryant spent 16 days as a Charlotte Hornet.

Long enough to develop resentment for the Hornets.

Charlotte drafted Bryant No. 13 in 1996 to trade him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac. Divac threatened to retire, but eventually relented on joining the Hornets. After the moratorium, Bryant went to Los Angeles, where he had a Hall of Fame career.

He hasn’t let go of draft night, though.

Bryant on the Knuckleheads podcast:

You get drafted, you get on the phone with the GM of the team that drafted you and all this stuff. So, I get on the phone with the Charlotte GM. He just tells me, “Hey, you know what’s going on.” Like, “Yeah. Yeah, yeah.” And you’ve got media in front of you and all that. And he goes, “Well, it’s a good thing we’re trading you, because we couldn’t have used you anyway.” You motherf. OK. OK. Alright. So, that’s what happened on draft night. So, I was already triggered. I was triggered. I was ready to go to the gym. Like f— the media. I don’t want to do any more interviews. I’m trying to – what are you telling me that for? I’m 17. What are you telling? OK. Alright.

The Hornets’ general manager was Bob Bass. He died last year, so he can’t tell his side of this story.

However, in previous tellings, Bryant said Charlotte coach Dave Cowens delivered that message. Cowens denied it.

Did Bryant forget whether he talked to the general manager or coach? Forget which position Cowens held? That’d be perfectly understandable decades later.

Or maybe both Bass and Cowens were on the call. Perhaps, Bryant initially thought Cowens said it and more recently learned it was Bass. That could explain Cowens’ denial.

But…

Stephen A. Smith of The Inquirer at the time:

On Wednesday, the Hornets took Bryant with the 13th pick of the NBA draft. Within minutes, there was talk of Bryant’s going to L.A. Dave Cowens, the Hornets’ new coach, was among those who raised the possibility, dismissing Bryant as “a kid” who would have a hard time playing for Charlotte.

That was a reasonable expectation. Bryant was just a teenager. Charlotte had veteran wings like Glen Rice and Dell Curry.

But Bryant was that special. He quickly became a contributor with the Lakers then developed into an all-time great.

In part because he fanned his competitive fire with perceived slights like this one.

Bryant is right: Who would say that to a 17-year-old? It just sounds cruel. Of course, Bryant would want to avenge being treated that way.

Here’s my guess: Someone from Charlotte – either Cowens or Bass – tried to comfort Bryant in a chaotic situation by saying the trade would work out for the best because the Hornets wouldn’t have played him much. It was supposed to be nice. Bryant took it as an insult.

But that’s just a guess. It was a private conversation many years ago. We’ll probably never know exactly what was said, let alone what was intended.

Report: Rockets signing Thabo Sefolosha

Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images
1 Comment

The Rockets’ minicamp has produced a signing – Thabo Sefolosha.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

This is surely for the minimum. It’s unclear how much is guaranteed.

Houston has just 10 players with guaranteed salaries, including Nene’s dud of a deal. So, there’s room for Sefolosha to make the regular-season roster.

Sefolosha should fit well in Houston. He’s a smart, versatile defender and can knock down corner 3s. James Harden and Russell Westbrook will allow Sefolosha to concentrate on his strengths in a limited role. The biggest question is how much the 35-year-old Sefolosha has left in the tank.

NBA to better define traveling rule, increase enforcement, explain rule to players, fans

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
8 Comments

Gather and two steps.

That is how the NBA has defined the traveling rule for many years now. A player can take a step if he is in the process of “gathering” a dribble or pass, then has two steps. Players such as James Harden have stretched that to the limit, frustrating opponents and non-Rockets fans, but it’s legal.

Now the NBA is looking to better define that “gather” step, then crackdown on enforcement of the rule. With that will come an education program for everyone from players to fans. All of this was approved at the NBA’s Board of Governors’ meeting in New York on Friday.

“One of the most misunderstood rules in our game is how traveling is interpreted and appropriately called,” Byron Spruell, NBA President, League Operations, said in a statement. “Revising the language of certain areas of the rule is part of our three-pronged approach to address the uncertainty around traveling.  This approach also includes an enforcement plan to make traveling a point of emphasis for our officiating staff, along with an aggressive education plan to increase understanding of the rule by players, coaches, media and fans.”

That “aggressive education plan” should be interesting.

At the meeting, the owners also made gamblers everywhere happy by saying that starting lineups now need to be submitted by coaches 30 minutes prior to the start of the game. In past years that had been only 10 minutes (and road teams complained that was not evenly enforced between home and road teams all the time).

This is a good bit of transparency by the league, as have been some of the recent changes in requirements of announcing injuries. But make no mistake, this rule change is all about gambling.

Under new anti-tampering rules, Adam Silver empowered to suspend execs, take away picks, void contracts

SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images
6 Comments

LeBron James publicly courted Anthony Davis. Many free agents seemingly struck deals before free agency even began. Kawhi Leonard‘s uncle/advisor reportedly sought prohibited extra benefits from teams.

The NBA finally reached its breaking point on tampering and circumvention.

After late apprehension, the league will enact stricter enforcement.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m not surprised this passed unanimously. NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted this to happen and wasn’t going to have owners vote unless he knew it’d pass. At that point, any protest-voting owners would just put themselves at odds with the commissioner. Not worth it.

We’ll see how long this crackdown lasts. I think that anonymous general manager represents many. If nobody is tampering, it’s fine not to tamper. But if some teams tamper, nobody wants to be at a disadvantage.

This could slowly creep back toward the old status quo. But if there’s a clear violator early, Silver will have an opportunity to send a message. We’ll see whether he takes it.

This should be less about which communication is or isn’t allowed. It’s about fairness.

That’s why it’s important the NBA has rules it will enforce and only rules it will enforce. That hasn’t been the case. If it is now, this will be a success.