Orlando, Fla. — For the third time in the past two seasons, the Pistons are preparing for extended period without point guard Reggie Jackson.
He missed the first 21 games last season and the final nine. After Tuesday’s injury — a grade-3 sprain of his right ankle — the projection is that he’ll be out for at least 6-8 weeks before he’s re-examined.
Ish Smith moved into the starting role, as he did last season, after Jackson had a platelet-rich plasma injection in his left knee and right thumb. The Pistons went 11-10 in the first stretch of last season, but given the Pistons’ good start in the first 33 games this year, the outlook is murky because Jackson could miss more than just 21 games.
“You’re not going to make up for what Reggie does,” Smith said after Thursday’s shootaround at Amway Center. “He’s talented and what we have to do is make up for it defensively and moving the ball offensively and sharing.”
While Jackson is more of a scoring point guard, Smith primarily has been a distributor, pushing the pace with the second unit. That could be a big help for the starting group, as Van Gundy has been pushing for them run more in transition and take advantage of their athleticism.
That’s a skill set that could translate and help them get off to better starts, as they did in a season-high 40-point first quarter against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. And playing at a fast pace and pushing the ball up the court is Smith’s forte.
“Ish’s strengths are Ish’s strengths. It doesn’t really matter who he’s playing with. He’s going to push the ball in transition and bring a really high energy level and a great deal of spirit,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I don’t think you can change how you play based on who you’re playing with — that’s what he does.”
Van Gundy wouldn’t settle on how the minutes will be distributed among the available point guards — Smith, Langston Galloway and Dwight Buycks, who is on a two-way contract from the Grand Rapids Drive.
What likely will happen is Van Gundy and his staff will take a look at Buycks for short stretches and see how effective he can be in the offense. If there’s a good fit, they could hold off on seeking other long-term solutions, such as a trade.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dwight. We only have six perimeter guys right now so just minutes-wise, he could be in there,” Van Gundy said. “We have a confidence level in him and he knows what’s going on and he’s healthy. He could be in there but Langston will be the first guy you see.”
Fans point to Kennard
One of the other options many fans on social media have considered is utilizing Luke Kennard as a backup point guard, giving him more playing time and keeping Galloway in his role as the backup shooting guard.
That’s an unlikely scenario, given that he’s still picking up the fundamentals of his own position.
“Could he? Yes. I don’t think that’s playing to his strengths right now,” Van Gundy said. “(Point guard) is the toughest position to play on the floor and it’s hard. I don’t think that’s something we would want to give him if we didn’t have to right now.
“Does he have the capability to do it? Yes he does.”
Avery Bradley participated has resumed basketball activities and did some shooting and cutting in practice. He looked to handle it well and is on course to return to the lineup next week, barring any setbacks.