By: Will Burchfield
To Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons’ biggest problem this year is also their reason for hope heading into next: the health of Reggie Jackson.
The team’s leading scorer and top assist-man in the 2015-16 season played in just 52 games in 2016-17 due to tendinitis in his left knee. Van Gundy expects Jackson to make a full recovery this offseason.
“We’re really confident in his health. I think his knee is back and now I think he’s got an offseason to sort of rehab mentally and gain confidence in his knee that he really can do all of the things that he did before. I think as that comes back over the course of these summer months we’ll get back to seeing the same Reggie Jackson and, I think in some ways, having learned from this year, a better Reggie Jackson than we had two years ago. Probably our greatest cause for optimism heading into next year,” Van Gundy told the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket.
Jackson was sidelined for the first 21 games of the 2016-17 season. When he returned in early December, the Pistons had a hard time adjusting to his style of play compared to that of Ish Smith. What’s more, it was clear throughout the season that Jackson didn’t have the same explosiveness off the dribble. The team shut him down for the final nine games of the year.
“It was a bad year. I think a lot of it was out of his control, the injury and then when he came back we had a hard time getting him back to fit in the way we wanted. Things had changed with him out a little bit,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t think he ever found his comfort zone nor do I think he was ever fully confident in his knee. I just think it was a struggle all the way around.
“This is a team that in large part had been built around his talents in the pick and roll. He wasn’t able to do those things, and as a result he struggled and we all struggled. I think that was the number one reason for our struggles this year — certainly not the only one, but probably the biggest.”
Van Gundy also lamented the Pistons’ poor perimeter shooting. They finished 28th in the league with a shooting percentage of 33.0 from three-point range. A healthier Jackson stands to improve the team in this regard next season.
“Part of it, the quality of shots will get better if we get Reggie back playing the way that he played two years ago. That will help, no question about it,” Van Gundy said. “But we still have to shoot the ball better on those shots.”
Jackson averaged 14.5 points and 5.2 assists in the 2016-17 season after averaging 18.8 points and 6.2 assists the season prior.