By: Will Burchfield
Andre Drummond missed Reggie Jackson last year.
The Pistons’ point guard was sidelined for 30 games thanks to knee tendinitis, and he wasn’t himself when he played. Without his best friend and pick-and-roll partner, Drummond struggled.
Things just weren’t the same.
But Jackson used the offseason to get healthy, as did Drummond, and the two are ready to recapture the form they showed in 2015-16 when they guided the Pistons to the playoffs. They took the first step in that direction on Wednesday night, helping Detroit to a 102-90 win over the Hornets in the season opener.
As the final seconds ticked off the giant scoreboard at Little Caesars Arena, Drummond and Jackson shared a long embrace at midcourt.
“It was just an emotional moment for myself and him,” said Drummond. “Just to have him back on the floor with me was exciting for me. I was overfilled with joy so I couldn’t help but to hug him and just tell him it was good to have him back.”
Drummond was one of two players left in the locker room as he was addressing the media. Jackson was the other. From across the room, Jackson commented on his affection for Drummond, just loud enough for reporters to hear.
Said Drummond, with a chuckle, “I think they saw at the end of the game.”
Jackson quickly responded, “They know I love you. Y’all can put that on camera — I love Andre Drummond.”
If the love is real between Drummond and Jackson, so is the chemistry. The two formed a potent pick-and-roll duo in 2015-16 when Drummond made the All-Star Game and Jackson nearly joined him. Last year’s encore was derailed by Jackson’s aching knee, not to mention Drummond’s deviated septum, but this year offers a clean slate.
The two are determined to make it count.
Of their moment at mid-court, Jackson said, “Honestly, we were just talking about how we have to go out there and lead each and every night. We have to be our best selves, and if we want to do something special we have to do it on a day-to-day basis.”
Jackson enters the season at 100 percent health, a far cry from last year. His conditioning isn’t quite where it needs to be after the Pistons brought him along slowly in training camp and the preseason, but he showed his characteristic bounce on Wednesday night in recording 13 points, eight assists and five rebounds in 27 minutes.
“He played very, very well, there’s no question,” said Stan Van Gundy. “And then he had to open the second half guarding Kemba (Walker) because of Avery (Bradley’s) foul trouble and I thought he went out and battled hard in that, too. I was really happy.”
Drummond, who posted 13 rebounds, eight points and two blocks on Wednesday night, likes what Jackson has shown so far.
“He’s still finding himself, but he’s playing 10 times better than he did when he came back last year, which is a great step for us. It’s just going to keep getting better game by game. Like I said, I’m really excited to have him back,” Drummond said.
And Jackson liked what Drummond showed versus the Hornets.
“Dre was tremendous, honestly, with his energy, blocking shots and making sure he held down the paint for us,” said Jackson.
At long last, things are back to normal.
“We’re finally all healthy at once,” Jackson said, a blessing worthy of a hug.