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Foster: Like Isiah, Jackson is now Pistons' unquestioned leader

Terry Foster
The Detroit News
Reggie Jackson

Orlando, Fla. – There was no drama. There was no surprise.

Reggie Jackson came to the Orlando Summer League to watch basketball and become the leader of the Pistons. And now, the Pistons have officially been transformed into the image of coach and president Stan Van Gundy after Jackson and the Pistons agreed to a five-year, $80 million deal. It's the largest deal in Pistons history and will be until Andre Drummond signs his max contract.

Drummond and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are the only remaining starters since Van Gundy took over a year ago.

It is a time of excitement and adventure for the players.

"Anytime you start a season it is going to be exciting," said guard Spencer Dinwiddie. "Obviously you have that excitement that you are trying to make the playoffs. It's a new year and a new time, and with all the changes we have been making and with Stan's track record of winning, obviously you are going to be excited."

So now we move forward with the Van Gundy philosophy in place. And while this is Van Gundy's roster, he clearly wants Jackson as his on-court trigger man. Jackson has been in the ear of teammates during the summer and encouraging teammates to stay on top of their games.

While Van Gundy discovered this summer that Detroit is not yet a top destination for NBA free agents, there is a new attitude with two of his most important players.

Detroit vs. Everybody. It's more than an edgy slogan on a T-shirt. Rookie Stanley Johnson and Jackson have thrown that phrase around quite frequently. They want to change the perception of the city and the franchise. And the Pistons are investing in them to do it.

If there is any debate over whether the Pistons should have given Jackson his money it should be a short one. Jackson can play, which is obviously most important, but he also feels he is a Piston at heart. He cares about the franchise. He cares about teammates and he wants to be here. Many NBA players do not.

Jackson found Detroit appealing because the franchise is willing to make him "the man" in the same way that Isiah Thomas, Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace became franchise players. For Thomas, Billups and Wallace, their input in front-office decisions was valued, and they were dressing room leaders, and players followed them

It is one thing to lead a team during a game. Thomas, Billups and Wallace led an entire franchise.

And that is what Jackson must learn to do during his first training camp with the Pistons, as he also learns the Van Gundy way.

It not only was a smart move to sign Jackson. It was the only move.