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Auburn Hills — When Jodie Meeks was recovering from the lower-back injury he suffered early in training camp, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy did his best to undersell Meeks' potential effect when he returned.

Scoring 34 in a 3-point barrage the night before New Year's Eve made Van Gundy's words a little hollow, but since, as the adrenaline has worn off, Meeks hasn't produced at the level he did in Los Angeles last season.

That's because he's not completely healthy just yet.

"I don't feel like I'm at 100 percent. Pretty good shape (though)," Meeks said. "Good enough to help the team out. I don't feel like I'm all the way to where I was last year."

Meeks came into his own last season, averaging 15.7 points a night. That led to a $20-million deal on the first day of free agency. His impact has been more intangible than tangible, as the threat of him on the floor creates driving lanes for the guards. Still, sooner or later, shooting 37 percent from the field in January isn't going to cut it.

"We had a hard time knocking down shots," Meeks said of the Pistons' losing effort in Atlanta on Monday afternoon. "Whenever we get an opportunity to play our game, we'll make something happen."

"It's predicated to going inside out, playing off the big men and vice versa."

Meeks, 27, is shooting 29 percent from 3 this month, and not finishing at the rim as well as he did when he started the season. Now the game has slowed a bit and so has he, but it goes back to Van Gundy's words. He had said Meeks wouldn't be back to his usual self until after the All-Star break.

"It takes awhile to get your legs back," Meeks said. "I've had some good games, some bad games. The most important part is staying confident.

"For me, it's my legs. I'm still trying to get them back. It's tough on everybody."

The Pistons were 16-26 overall entering Wednesday's game, but 13-7 mark in the 20 games since he was activated in mid-December. Even the upcoming practice time won't truly get him back in a rhythm, especially since Van Gundy said Meeks "has a long way to go" on the defensive end.

"Conditioning, you get that as you play," Meeks said. "There's really no simulating that in practice. As the season goes on, the better I'll go."

vgoodwill@detroitnews.com

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