Detroit Pistons’ Reggie Jackson shares in win: ‘Good to have him back’
Pistons guard Reggie Jackson glows after a 102-90 season-opening win over the Hornets in the first official game at Little Caesars Arena on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. Vince Ellis, Detroit Free Press
As the final seconds ticked away Wednesday night, Andre Drummond looked for Reggie Jackson on the Little Caesars Arena floor.
When he found him, the two players who compete for the title of Most Polarizing Detroit Piston embraced at center court.
Neither were the star of the franchise’s first official night in a new home.
But Drummond wanted to put the spotlight on Jackson, who was solid in the Detroit Pistons’ 102-90 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
“It was just an emotional moment for myself and him,” Drummond said after the game.
“Just to have him back is exciting for me … It’s good to have him back.”
Jackson, in his first regular-season outing since struggling with injuries in 2016-17, scored 13 points and delivered eight assists with no turnovers.
“Honestly, we were just talking about how we have to go out there and lead each and every night,” Jackson said of the post-game embrace. “We have to be our best selves. If we want to do something special, we have to do it on a day-to-day basis. Not necessarily just games; we have to continue to get better in practice, then we have to translate it over to games and come out and compete each and every day.”
Jackson’s still knocking off the rust after an off-season devoted to limiting wear on his left knee, which was the source of last season’s struggles.
He started rigorous basketball activity just a month ago; Van Gundy said Jackson’s first full-court activity came a day before media day last month.
And while he works off the rust, Jackson may have discovered a winning formula.
Fans had a love/hate relationship with Jackson’s ball-dominant, over-dribbling game.
That game was nowhere to be found.
“I think everybody notices it because if you’re watching, there’s a lot less pounding the ball,” Van Gundy said. “He’s not out there 15, 16 dribbles. He makes his move and he makes the pass and so that’s contagious and it allows other people to play and, plus, the fact (he had) eight assists and no turnovers.”
Tobias Harris (27 points, 10 rebounds) shouldered much of the scoring load and his three-pointer with 1:11 left gave the Pistons a 100-89 lead.
It came from a Jackson pass and as both players retreated on defense, Harris made a point to pat Jackson on the back.
Jackson’s game is still predicated on getting into the paint and it took him a while to find his touch around the basket. He started 1-for-6 on his way, but made his last four shots. A three-point play at the rim appeared to get him going.
His plus-minus rating for the night was plus-10; Smith’s was plus-two.
But Jackson deferred for most of the night. Three players attempted more shots.
“I talked to him about the way he was playing,” Drummond said. “I need him to make our team go. Everybody knows Reggie is one of the best point guards in the league, but I needed him to get everyone else involved.
“That’s what makes our team great and he’s done a great job of trying to incorporate that and get everybody going first before he worries about himself. That’s a testament to what kind of player he is.”
Conditioning is still a concern. He lost time during the preseason with a sore right groin. And four games in the next seven days await the Pistons.
“He’s still trying to find his legs,” Van Gundy said. “He didn’t do much of anything until we started camp. He’s really only been at it for a couple of weeks. Then he missed a couple of games early because of a groin thing. He hasn’t played a lot of basketball. He’s just starting to get back. His conditioning has come a long way in the last week. … It’s only going to get better as time goes on.”