(97.1 The Ticket) The Pistons will add another big player this month, though likely not through a trade.
Point guard Reggie Jackson is expected to return shortly after the All-Star break, which begins the weekend of Feb. 17. The Pistons’ first game back is Feb. 23 versus the first-place Celtics.
In Stan Van Gundy’s eyes, the addition of Jackson to a starting lineup that now includes Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond will give the Pistons a Big Three.
“To me, the third piece is Reggie. That’s pretty good. That’s a pretty good three. We’ve got it in place. We just don’t have it on the court right now,” Van Gundy told reporters on Monday, via the Detroit News.
Jackson, who’s averaging 14.6 points and 5.5 assists this season, has been out since late December with a sprained ankle. Prior to acquiring Griffin, the Pistons went 3-12 in Jackson’s absence.
Van Gundy said that Jackson will resume running during the All-Star break. Even in a tight playoff race, the Pistons will likely be cautious in getting him back on the floor. They rushed him back from a knee injury last season — something Van Gundy has acknowledged — and Jackson wasn’t the same.
It’s the prospect of Jackson’s return that will likely keep the Pistons quiet in advance of the Feb. 8 trade deadline. The backcourt help they need is on the way. The team also lacks assets in the wake of the Griffin trade in which Detroit parted ways with Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley and a 2018 first-round draft pick.
Still, general manager Jeff Bower will be active in searching for any kind of upgrade, most likely a wing scorer. Entering play Monday night the Pistons are a half game behind the eighth-place 76ers and three-and-a-half games behind the fifth-place Bucks in a tight Eastern Conference.
“He’s always working,” Van Gundy said of Bower. “I don’t know that we will do anything or we won’t. I couldn’t put a percentage on the possibilities, but Jeff is still working.”
In recent days, Griffin and Drummond have both talked about their eagerness to take the floor with Jackson. Griffin said the team’s ceiling can’t be fairly measured until the point guard returns. The trio will no doubt undergo a feeling-out period, but its potential is real.
Ish Smith has played well in Jackson’s stead, but the latter is a more dynamic scorer. As Jackson goes, it seems, so go the Pistons.
“Over the last three years, we’re playing eight or nine games over .500 when we have Reggie in there starting and we’re playing below .400 when he’s not. So if we can get him in there with Blake and Andre, going forward it’s good,” said Van Gundy.
The Pistons have 25 games after the All-Star break to make a push into the playoffs.