Newcomer Jackson settles down, Pistons roll
Auburn Hills — Reggie Jackson returned to the military brat who bounced around Italy, England, North Dakota and Colorado, wanting acceptance from his new classmates and neighbors.
He was the nervous kid again. But this time the nerves came before teammates and a nice Sunday afternoon crowd of 18,371 at The Palace. This was his first game before teammates, fans and coaches.
That is why he threw up on courtside and threw up consecutive air balls. That is why he missed his first eight shots. It is why the usually friendly Palace crowd gave him a Bronx cheer when he finally made his first point — a free throw with 1:10 remaining in the first half.
But Jackson woke up like that painful Snickers commercial and returned to the guy the Pistons fell in love with in Oklahoma City during a 106-89 victory over the Washington Wizards.
When he was the bad Jackson with the churning stomach, the Pistons were bad and fell behind by 11 points. When Jackson was good and his nerves were settled, the Pistons were very, very good and at times dominated and taunted the Wizards (33-23), who came in with a better record and higher playoff aspirations.
In the course of one afternoon we saw why this was a very bad trade and a very good one. Jackson rebounded and finished with 17 points, five rebounds and five assists during his first game as a Piston.
"I was just a little bit too hyped up," Jackson said. "The sinuses and the allergies kicked in. I just have to stay on top of it. Hopefully, I won't have it again."
It was the most nerves he felt since his first start with Oklahoma City in his rookie season.
There were no nerves from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He finished with 26 points and made six of 13 three-point shots and played stellar defense and was the Pistons' top player. The only bummer is he tweaked an ankle while throwing down a dunk in the third quarter.
"I just felt comfortable out there," Caldwell-Pope said. "I was in rhythm while shooting the ball and it just felt good when I released it."
He said he was not worried about the ankle.
"Once I got settled and got it worked on it felt better," Caldwell-Pope said.
Pistons fans also welcomed Tayshaun Prince to a standing ovation as the Prince of the Palace returned. He dressed but did not play because coach Stan Van Gundy said he did not practice with the team after a late arrival.
Nonetheless some fans chanted: "We want Prince. Bring in Prince."
Van Gundy spoke with Prince near the end of the game to explain why he was not going in.
Prince is expected to play Tuesday when the Pistons play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Prince's first defensive assignment is likely to be LeBron James which is no easy chore.
The Pistons spread the ball and shared the wealth while placing six players in double figures. It was their second straight post All-Star victory against a top five seed in the Eastern Confernce.
There were many accolades to throw around. Andre Drummond finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds, Greg Monroe had 15 points and 15 rebounds while Anthony Tolliver chipped in 13 points.
Jackson's slow start wasn't the only reason why the Pistons trailed by 11 points in the first half. The 6-foot-11 Marcin Gortat made his first eight shots and used superior foot work and strength to bull inside for 24 points and 10 rebounds. Teammate Kris Humphries made his first five shots and finished with 11 points.
"For whatever reason we stopped focusing," said Wizards guard Garrett Temple. "We kind of got too comfortable."
On the other side Jackson felt comfortable too. But he used a high level of comfort to help put distance between the Pistons and the Wizards.
"In the second half, he looked like the guy we traded for," Van Gundy said. "He was attacking the basket, using his athleticism and making plays. I was really happy with him."