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Minneapolis — It's just a small step, but it's a step nonetheless.

And for Pistons guard Brandon Jennings, most of his steps over the last 10 months have been part of his rehabilitation from a ruptured left Achilles injury he suffered in January.

The long road back is nearing its last few weeks, as Jennings is crossing milestones off his rehab list, as a projected return to the lineup around mid- to late-December gets closer.

On Friday afternoon after shootaround, Jennings took part in one-on-one drills for the first time in his rehab stint, taking on reserve guards Spencer Dinwiddie and rookie Darrun Hilliard. That included 3-pointers and some full-go contact with a simulated six-second shot clock.

"It's cool; every day is a process," Jennings said. "I've finally been able to go live a little bit. The only thing is I have to get my conditioning up and then I'll be ready."

Coach Stan Van Gundy has maintained that the timeline remains around Christmas for Jennings to get back into game shape. Van Gundy said the final decision about Jennings' return schedule is up to the medical staff, but the progress he's making is encouraging.

Jennings already had gotten back into some 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 drills with the rest of the team last week in Los Angeles, but getting to full-scale one-on-one is a step that he's looking forward to putting a check mark beside.

The next benchmark is getting back to playing shape and improving his conditioning so that he can play at an NBA level. Although each player has a different ramping-up period of how long that will take, Jennings thinks that his won't take too long.

"For me, it'll be quicker because I like to play and these next couple weeks, we're definitely going to hit it as hard as ever," Jennings said. "I'll be well conditioned by the time I'm ready to come back."

Jennings said last week he wasn't experiencing any pain in his left foot after playing, but after flights, he sometimes has discomfort. After he clears that hurdle and gets more practices in, he should be on target for a December return.

When he returns, Jennings will look to provide the scoring punch that the bench has struggled to provide in the first 11 games of the season. From the bench, he sees the need, and is itching to get back.

"Our main (issue) is scoring off the bench; we're definitely going to need scoring now that (the season) is starting to really get going," he said. "I can't wait to come back and be able to fill that role."

With Jodie Meeks (toe fracture) also out, the backcourt depth has been an issue, with Dinwiddie and Steve Blake, but neither provides the scoring that Jennings can.

As good as advertised

As Friday night's opponent, Minnesota, has gotten off to a decent start behind a young nucleus, Van Gundy said he isn't surprised by the how the pair of No. 1 picks, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, have started to jell together.

Especially in the case of Towns, a rookie center who averages 15.8 points and 10.7 rebounds, Van Gundy saw some of the skills as he observed him in the pre-draft assessments.

"It's what I was watching after the season on all the prospects," Van Gundy said. "He can turn over either shoulder in the post, blocks shots, moves his feet well defensively, can hit the open jump shot; I haven't seen anything I didn't expect to see."

Pistons vs. Wizards

Tipoff: Saturday, 7 p.m., The Palace, Auburn Hills

TV / radio: FSD-Plus / WMGC

Outlook: Bradley Beal (shoulder contusion) is nearing a return after missing two weeks. In six games, Beal averaged 22.7 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Wizards (5-4).

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter.com/detnewsRodBeard


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