Jonas Jerebko averaged 11.2 minutes per game last season, and his production hit career lows across the board (4.2 points, 2.7 rebounds). (Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Jonas Jerebko is hoping the third time is the charm, as he exercised his player option with the expectation he’ll be better utilized under new Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy.
Jerebko, in an interview with Swedish newspaper Boras Tidning, said he would opt in to the final year of a four-year contract that will net him $4.5 million next season.
“I feel like I can do much better than what I got the opportunity to show this past season,” he said.
He averaged only 11.2 minutes per game last season, and his production hit career lows across the board (4.2 points, 2.7 rebounds), which he blamed on former coach Maurice Cheeks. Jerebko is coming off a not-so-cherry relationship with Cheeks’ predecessor, Lawrence Frank.
Fans will remember Jerebko’s father speaking out against Frank when the Pistons went on their London excursion in the 2012-13 season, bringing Jerebko’s strained relationship with the then coach to light.
“At first, Lawrence Frank didn’t want to give me a real chance,” said Jerebko, who changed agents in February, signing with Bill Duffy.
“When he left, the same thing happened with Mo Cheeks. I played at most 25 minutes in a game, I think. I averaged that per game a few seasons ago, so I can’t be satisfied with that.”
Jerebko, a second-round pick in 2009, became a crowd favorite in the 2009-10 season when he filled in at the power forward and small forward spots, especially after former Piston Tayshaun Prince went down with a back injury.
He made the all-rookie second team, primarily as an energy guy who played hard, scrappy and scored occasionally. The next preseason, he tore his Achilles, missing the 2010-11 season and hasn’t found his identity as the scrappy player since.
““I’ve already made up my mind. I have one year left in Detroit, and I’ll keep on going,” Jerebko said. “It’s a very important summer and season coming up.”
Jerebko found himself playing behind Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith last season. Considering it was hard enough finding minutes at power forward to divvy between Monroe and Smith, Jerebko was often the odd man out, struggling to fit in.
With Van Gundy becoming Jerebko’s fifth coach in five seasons, he’ll likely get a clear and straightforward indication of what his role will be this season.
“We’ll sit down and go through a few things,” Jerebko said. “How does he see me? What does he want? What sort of player does he think I should be? What should I work extra on? It’ll be fun to talk some.”
Upon hearing of Van Gundy’s arrival, Jerebko said, “There were very positive reactions. I remember him from when he coached Orlando, and he is an experienced coach who has been in the league for a long time. I’ve always talked to him when we’ve met.”