By: Will Burchfield

Reggie Jackson took an important step on Wednesday in his recovery from the ankle injury that has sidelined him since late December, but his return is likely at least three weeks away.

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Stan Van Gundy told 97.1 The Ticket on Thursday that he doesn’t anticipate Jackson even practicing within the next two weeks.

“He’s not nearly to that point yet. My hope is that maybe after these first two weeks. We play nine games in 15 days starting (Friday), then we get three days in between games as we head out west. I’m hoping during that time he will be able to practice,” Van Gundy said, “but I don’t know if that will be the case or not.”

That three-day window begins March 10. Jackson, who resumed light running and shooting on Wednesday but has yet to start cutting, will need at least a few full-contact practices to get up to game speed. Those might be hard to come by on a road trip that begins with five games in eight days.

“We’d love to get him in practice. He’s going to need to get in practice, number one, for his own confidence and mental approach, but also for fitting in with our team. I just don’t know when that’s going to be,” Van Gundy said.

The Pistons’ March 15 game at Denver comes three weeks from today. Should Jackson return on that date, an optimistic scenario, he’ll be available for the team’s final 15 games of the season. Of course, he’ll have to be eased back into action and find his place in an offense that has been remade since the acquisition of Blake Griffin.

The chemistry issues that developed in the wake of Jackson’s return from an injury last season serve as a cautionary tale.

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“It’s just hard to inject somebody this late in the year, so there’s no question it concerns me. We’ll just see how it goes,” Van Gundy said. “Again, we’ll get him into practice, we’ll see how it looks, we’ll get him into games probably in somewhat of a limited capacity minutes wise and we’ll just take it from there. But there’s no question there’s some pitfalls there.”

Jackson sprained his right ankle on Dec. 26 against the Pacers. At the time, he was averaging 14.6 points and 5.5 assists and the Pistons were 19-14. They are 9-15 without him, even as Ish Smith has filled in admirably.

Detroit did not expect Jackson to be out this long. His original timeline was six to eight weeks, and the latter date passed on Tuesday. It’s part of the reason the team acquired point guard Jameer Nelson at the trade deadline.

After practice on Wednesday, Jackson expressed frustration that he’s not yet back to full health.

“It makes it crappy. It honestly makes the recovery process crappy. You feel good that you’re getting better, but you’re still not quite there. I’m making strides but it’s not where I want to be — I want to be out there with my guys playing and I want to be fully healthy. It sucks, but I’m happy I’m making progress,” Jackson told reporters, via the Detroit News.

When he returns, Jackson is likely to find himself in the thick of a playoff race. He’s been doing his best to take mental notes on the sideline, knowing he’ll have little time to waste.

“There’s no teacher like experience, so I have to take the things I learned from watching and try to implement them as quickly as possible when I get back,” he said.

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The 27-year-old has missed 54 games over the last two seasons. He was hampered last year by knee tendinitis.