Pistons' Jodie Meeks out eight weeks with back injury

By Vincent Goodwill
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — The good vibrations birthed from the good news of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's relative minor injury was offset by the revelation of Jodie Meeks' minor injury being anything but.

What started out as back spasms for Meeks turned out to be much more serious for the Pistons' new acquisition, as he'll miss the next two months with a stress reaction of his lower back.

Meeks was optimistic he would be able to play in the three upcoming exhibition games this week, but a CAT scan revealed the stress reaction to his vertebrae, similar to the injury Andre Drummond suffered his rookie season that caused him to miss nearly the same amount of time Meeks is scheduled to miss.

"Jodie's gonna be out a while," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "He's got a couple fractured vertebrae. It'll be a couple months before he's back. He doesn't have any idea how he did it. (Isn't from) getting hit. Didn't fall on the floor. We have no idea how it happened."

Of course, this comes on the heels of the Pistons dodging a serious bullet with Caldwell-Pope's left knee strain Sunday in Washington, an injury many believed at first sight to be serious.

Meeks, 27, was the Pistons' main target via free agency this summer, with his shooting ability and wont to create off the bounce. Meeks, who signed a three-year deal worth $19 million in July, scored 13 in the exhibition season opener against Chicago last Tuesday.

"What we saw in camp and in the first game, here's a guy who can really score. He's not just a spot-up shooter," Van Gundy said recently. "He can make plays coming off screens, knows how to draw fouls. He's a very good offensive player."

Meeks' ability to potentially score in bunches will be missed, thus placing more emphasis and importance on point guard decision-making, and the productivity of the Pistons' big men. Now, it looks Meeks will be out until at least Dec. 10 — missing the first 22 games of the season, if the timeline holds true.

Van Gundy liked the aspect of having two quick and energetic wing players on the floor who could be a threat to shoot or get out on the break after defensive rebounds.

"It's a big loss," Van Gundy said. "Coming out of camp and through the first preseason game against a good defensive game, I came out feeling good with that position over the first eight or nine days. Obviously we'll be a little thin there to begin the season."

Now it leaves a considerable hole in the team's depth, and will force a few changes in the lineup Van Gundy had been hesitant to implement, namely using Kyle Singler in the backcourt and playing Josh Smith at small forward for stretches.

In a tongue-in-cheek manner, he talked about using Smith, Greg Monroe and Drummond on the floor together, and already planned to do so this week.

"As it works out, having Josh take minutes on the perimeter helps us this week," said Van Gundy before turning sarcastic. "We had exactly one day of practice with that lineup so that'll be smooth."

He even brought up the name of a player seemingly long forgotten, Italian forward Luigi Datome.

"It gives other guys a chance to play," Van Gundy said. "It's not ideal when you're putting things together, not by any means. But even in things you don't like there's silver linings."

Van Gundy hadn't yet had his talk with the team about definitive individual roles, and this changes the timeline on things and roles will be altered. Singler played shooting guard by necessity in his first two years, and will find himself again chasing ball-handling shooting guards on the defensive end.