Rodney Stuckey's broken right thumb has progressed to the point the Pistons say he's been cleared for 'limited basketball activities.' (Ron Turenne / Getty Images)
Auburn Hills — The Pistons won’t be able to see what their full compliment of players looks like until Brandon Jennings is cleared to play after his fractured jaw, but Rodney Stuckey is hopeful he’ll be able to go on opening night.
Stuckey’s broken right thumb has progressed to the point the Pistons say he’s been cleared for “limited basketball activities” and after visiting with doctors Friday, he’s back to shooting the ball with his right hand — but no contact drills.
“Everything’s healing good. (I’ll) just take it day by day,” Stuckey said. “Cleared to do limited basketball stuff. Really no contact as of now. Just doing drills and stuff. Doing 5 on 5 with the guys, can’t do that now. The running drills, the offensive and defensive stuff, I’m doing it.”
Stuckey would be a big boost to an injury-depleted backcourt if he can play Wednesday against the Washington Wizards, the season opener for both teams. The Wizards are a guard-led squad, with point guard John Wall and sharpshooting sophomore Bradley Beal commanding the bulk of the attention.
With Jennings missing at least the first handful of games with injury, Stuckey — who was called the best defensive guard by Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks hours before Stuckey jammed his thumb into his car door — would be a big help against a potent backcourt.
“That’s the goal. Not saying I will be (ready) but that’s the ultimate goal,” Stuckey said. “Like I said, day by day, see how it feels and hopefully I’ll be good.”
With three practice days between now and opening night, Cheeks wouldn’t mind seeing Stuckey practice before throwing him into competition but it doesn’t sound like he’d hesitate to put Stuckey in if the player pronounced himself ready on Wednesday — with no practice under his belt.
“I’m not gonna box myself in like that,” Cheeks said. “It would be good to see him out there. For his sake it would be better to go through a practice like that.”
At this point, Stuckey said it’s about pain tolerance and it’ll be his decision as to when he can go. He said it still feels “kind of tight” but he isn’t wearing a bulky brace.
“Shooting the ball, it’s all about getting hit on it and how it would react,” Stuckey said. “It’s been two weeks but it seems like it hasn’t been that long. I’m feeling good. Arnie (Kander) has been doing a good job with it, doing treatment on it every day.”
Cheeks also went into depth with comments after saying on Thursday he wanted Andre Drummond to be a little better in terms of protecting the rim as the regular season approaches.
It’s clear that Cheeks has high expectations for the second-year center, and perhaps seeing diminutive Timberwolves guard JJ Barea challenge Drummond, who didn’t go for the blocked shot, at the rim in the waning moments of Thursday’s game was a teachable moment.
“He’s got to be better defending his man with the ball, clogging the middle with guys coming down the lane,” Cheeks said. “He has to be a little better so they would think about going to the paint. Big guys in the middle like that, when you’re defending the paint, they’d have to think about it.”
He’s not asking Drummond to deliver hard fouls, The NBA doesn’t allow that kind of play anymore, anyway. But he wants Drummond to put some fear into players coming down the lane, a fine line to be sure.
“There’s a way when a guy’s coming to the lane to hit him,” Cheeks said. “It’s expensive, flagrant fouls, there’s a way to do it. Time will take care of that. There’s not a way to show him but there’s a way to do it.”