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Jackson, Prince won’t suit up tonight for Pistons

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills – Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy admitted he traded for point guard Reggie Jackson to become the future face of the franchise. But he refused to pull the plug on injured guard Brandon Jennings, who was the team’s starting guard until an Achilles injury sidelined him for the season.

Now the next step for Van Gundy is to call Jennings and explain his future role. There are many options but it appears as if Jackson will get his wish and become the starting point guard for the Pistons beginning Sunday for their home game against the Washington Wizards (3:30 p.m.).

Jennings’ role is murky because the team does not know how he will recover from his injury. Jennings explodes and runs the floor well but many players lose their explosion following an Achilles.

“Jennings has a lot of confidence in his ability,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t think that is a guy who will shy away. I need to tell him our plans. We will go forward from that, but we acquired Reggie as our long-term future and we are quite happy about that.”

Jackson is now the Pistons’ Tom Brady after they sent D.J. Augustin and Kyle Singler along with a 2017 second round pick to Oklahoma City and a 2019 second round pick to Utah as part of a three-team deal.

Jackson was expected to take his physical with the Pistons Friday night or on Saturday and was not available for Friday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls at The Palace. He was expected to practice with the team on Saturday.

Tayshaun Prince, who came over from Boston, was traveling to Boston from the West Coast to pick up personal items before coming to Detroit for his physical.

Prince could join the Pistons as late as Tuesday.

Jackson is the point guard of the future just as Isiah Thomas was when he was drafted by the Pistons in 1981, just as Chauncey Billups was when he arrived as a free agent in 2002. Both won NBA titles and that is the plan for Jackson.

The question is can the Pistons sign him? They have an advantage in that they have the Bird rights for Jackson, who turned down an offer with OKC. The Pistons can offer him a five-year deal whereas other teams can only sign him to a four-year deal.

But the Pistons must be willing to pay him. Jackson turned down a four-year, $48-million deal with the Thunder.

“We did not make it as a rest of the season move,” Van Gundy said. “We made it for the long term. There is no question about it.”

Jackson made it well known that wants a team he can call his own. That wasn’t the case in OKC where he played behind point guard Russell Westbrook. That is why he became edgy while his agent requested a trade.

Jackson is explosive and attacks the basket. He can be a big-time scorer and when his mood is in sync with his game he can kick it to teammates and be a menace to opponents. He can also defend and his long wing span allows him to choke off passing angles. He averaged 12.8 points, 4.2 assists and 4.0 rebounds, but what impressed the Pistons were the 20.1 points, 7.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds he averaged as a starter.

Jennings is now a question mark because the Pistons don’t know if his speed and quickness will be compromised when he returns next season. Jennings’ could become the Pistons spark off the bench like Lindsey Hunter, Mike James and Vinnie Johnson were during Pistons championship years.

Jennings is also used to starting and the Pistons must find out if that will be a problem when he returns. The Pistons could also afford to play Jennings and Jackson together because of Jackson's 6-foot-3 size.

“You see a lot of situations where teams are playing two play makers at the one and two,” said forward Caron Butler. “Look at a team like Phoenix. They traded for a guy like Brandon Knight. I don’t know if he is a traditional one or a traditional two, but I know he can play the game of basketball. He can put it in the basket.

“Who says they cannot coexist with one another? You have to see what is going to happen. I can see them playing along side each other.”