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Caldwell-Pope, Jackson tandem has potential

Terry Foster, Detroit News
Detroit Pistons' Reggie Jackson, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope show chemistry in a short time of playing together.

Miami — Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas enjoyed late night burgers at Red Robin in Portland, Oregon, and walked the shores of Lake Michigan after satisfying playoff wins in Chicago.

Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups poked at one another and enjoyed late-night talks. These were bonding moments during their runs as one of the best backcourts of their era.

Now Reggie Jackson is ready to begin the walk with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to join Pistons royalty as one of the best backcourts in the game. He knows it won't happen this season, but he believes it can happen if they grow and bond together.

Both admit their bonding off the court is just as important as their bonding on it.

"You don't plan on it," Jackson said. "You just hang out and enjoy his presence. If we are sitting around let's go eat dinner or let's talk to help us out to communicate on the court and help us become better."

Caldwell-Pope is not the most talkative person in the Pistons' dressing room. But he realizes how important Jackson is to his game. He is the quarterback and can help KCP grow. However, there needs to be growth and male bonding.

Jackson is just 24 years old and KCP recently turned 22. They are in the infant stage of growth. Jackson and KCP will play in just their 18th game together Sunday when the Pistons face the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. They've combined for 31.9 points and 9.8 assists per game, which is on par for the 32.4 points per game and 14.5 assists Thomas and Dumars produced during Dumars' rookie season.

In 2002-03, Hamilton and Billups combined for 35.9 points and 6.4 assists during their first season as teammates.

Being great is more than numbers. Thomas and Dumars won two NBA finals and appeared in three NBA finals. Hamilton and Billups won an NBA title and were in six Eastern Conference finals. Caldwell-Pope and Jackson are 7-12 together although the Pistons have won their last four games.

During their heyday, Billups was the one firing passes to Hamilton as Rip rolled off screens and terrorized the NBA with one of the most potent mid-range games in the league. He knew when Hamilton wanted passes and he usually zipped them at the right height. He also knew where to be when Hamilton got in trouble.

Thomas knew Dumars liked to catch and rise. And if he didn't he knew where to slide for a return pass.

These are small things to learn when you know your partner.

"Yeah we've got to get that chemistry together with him (Jackson) being here for just part of the season," Caldwell-Pope said. "We haven't had time to really deal with each other. It just takes time. Once we start learning each other on the court, we can get that spark."

When Jackson talks about becoming one of the best backcourts in the league, he also talks a lot about his defense. Caldwell-Pope is a premier defender and Jackson said he must follow suit so he does not let his backcourt mate down and also allow Andre Drummond to get into foul trouble.

The two are communicating better and Caldwell-Pope is not afraid to call Jackson out.

"I know we are young, but we have a chance to do something," Jackson said. "He loves to play defense. He hates to be scored on. I really have a chance to excel by playing next to somebody like that.

"If I get scored on I know he is going to allow me to know it. I've got to man up, lock down and guard my guy on my own or allow him to switch because he is so great at guarding the ball whether it is on the ball or off the ball defense."

Jackson is a restricted free agent but he sounds like a guy that wants to stay and grow with KCP and Spencer Dinwiddie.

"The point guard is the head of the snake for every team," Jackson said. "I am going to have to attack on offense and try to get shots and defend to keep the ball out of the pain and keep my guy out of the paint. I want to be more aggressive defensively and playing alongside him allows me to do that."

No big thing

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy does not put much stock in his latest milestone. He is just one victory from win No. 400. He secured No. 399 during the Pistons' 111-97 victory Friday night over the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center.

"I mean those are just numbers," Van Gundy said. "I didn't even know. 399. OK. You coach so many games. I mean how many losses do I have? I can probably tell you a lot more about those than I can about the wins.

"I have had the good fortune to coach a lot of good players and a lot of good groups. And people have been dumb enough to hire me three times so I get a chance to win some games."

Pistons at Heat

Tip-off: 6 p.m. Sunday, American Airlines Arena, Miami

TV/radio: FSD/WMGC-FM

Outlook: The Heat own the seventh playoff spot but are limping toward the finish line. Dwyane Wade played in a loss in Atlanta Friday after missing a game with a knee injury. Chris Bosh (blood clot) is out the rest of the season. Hassan Whiteside (right-hand laceration) and Chris Anderson (bruised left calf) are questionable.