Pistons' Jennings eager to get back but not rushing it

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Brandon Jennings was off to a career year before his Achilles injury in January. Then things changed.

The Pistons went through a turnstile of point guards before settling on Reggie Jackson to fill the void.

Now that Jennings is working his way back from the injury, he has higher spirits, even if his role on the team is unclear. For now, he's just trying to get healthy and then he'll join a roster that has three point guards already in Jackson, Steve Blake and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Doctors have cleared him for some workouts, but he's trying to avoid coming back too quickly.

"I'm feeling good. It's been a long summer rehabbing," Jennings said Monday at Pistons media day. "I did put on a lot of weight but that's because I've been doing a lot of laying around. Right now I'm about 195, but I plan on playing at 185 this year.

"It's not that it's not good weight; I know that I can't keep it up. Once I start running, I'll lose it."

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While he likely won't participate in any of training camp this week, he's looking to ramp up his workouts and be ready to return in November or December.

"I've been jogging and doing a lot of shooting. I've been doing everything but I just can't play basketball," he said. "I'm just taking my time with it, not rushing back or anything. I've been doing everything all summer."

In his rehab, Jennings has to be careful not to do too much and risk aggravating the Achilles injury, but with the depth at the position, he can take his time. For many athletes, the tough part is having the mental fortitude to resist the urge to come back too quickly.

But with his teammates behind him in his rehab, he's worked past the low point, which he joked was seeing some of the free agents get big paydays.

This is a contract year for Jennings — and he knows his time will come if he can get healthy again.

"I'm past the mental part of it; now it's just me calming down and not wanting to do too much. I can go out there and think I feel good and just keep going, but I have to just relax," he said. "When you see guys get money like that, your confidence has to boost up. I put that in the back of my mind every time I was out there working out.

"The money is going to be there — we all know that. The motivation is getting back to the level I was playing at because I felt like I found my niche and I was playing some of the best basketball I've played since I've been in the league."

As he made it through last season, he was able to find some good counsel in vets such as Kobe Bryant and Chauncey Billups, who have had similar Achilles injuries. They advised him to just stay the course and not try to rush back.

"Once I found out I was cleared, my confidence got to another level because I want to get back. This Achilles injury is nothing to play around with," Jennings said. "It's been one of the most difficult summers with these injuries because I've been limited to do stuff and not being able to get on the court and play."

Morris to tutor Johnson

Marcus Morris has Van Gundy's nod to be the starter at small forward, at least initially, but he'll work with rookie Stanley Johnson to fill the role.

With his size and skill set, Morris thinks he's a good fit for the position and the offense.

"Perfect," he said. "They need a guy like me to bring intensity and every day to compete."

Morris played in a fast-paced system in Phoenix and averaged 10.4 points and 4.8 rebounds last season before coming to the Pistons. If Johnson continues to grow, they could play together in the forward spots, against some lineups.

"I like Stanley; he has a lot of fire and he's willing to learn and works hard," Morris said. "We fit perfectly together."


50, Joel Anthony, C, 6-9/245

12, Aron Baynes, F-C, 6-10/260

22, Steve Blake, G, 6-3/172

25, Reggie Bullock, F, 6-7/205

5, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, 6-5/205

8, Spencer Dinwiddie, G, 6-6/200

0, Andre Drummond, C , 6-11/279

Danny Granger, F-G, 6-9/222

6, Darrun Hilliard, F, 6-6/205

23, Ersan Ilyasova, F, 6-10/235

1, Reggie Jackson, G, 6-3/208

7, Brandon Jennings, G, 6-1/169

3, Stanley Johnson, F, 6-7/245

35, Cartier Martin, F, 6-7/220

20, Jodie Meeks, G, 6-4/210

13, Marcus Morris, F, 6-9/235

Adonis Thomas, G-F, 6-7/240

43, Anthony Tolliver, F, 6-8/240

Granger and Thomas have not yet been assigned numbers.