Auburn Hills — Less than 24 hours after playing a four-overtime game in Chicago, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson easily could have just decided to rest at home. Instead, they went out of their way — two hours out of the way to Grand Rapids — to support a teammate.
As Brandon Jennings took another step to play with the Pistons’ D-League affiliate on Saturday night, Drummond and Jackson went to cheer on Jennings, along with Darrun Hilliard and Reggie Bullock.
It’s just a sign of what coach Stan Van Gundy mentioned Friday as the chemistry and closeness between the Pistons players that’s contributing to their early success this season.
“That’s two young guys who are trying to grow as leaders and I look at that as a major step forward for both of them. We’ve had a grueling stretch, with over four weeks without two days between games,” Van Gundy said. “You have a day where you can chill out and relax and you take a two-hour drive to watch three of your teammates play. I don’t know how many people would do that — I think it says a lot about both of those guys and what they’re all about.
“It may seem like a minor thing to some people, but I think it’s huge that your two best players on a night off decide to come here.”
Drummond had some fun with the fans too, taking some halfcourt shots during a contest between quarters and taking timeout for dozens of photos and autographs. He said he hadn’t been to Grand Rapids before but the main objective to go and support Jennings in another milestone toward his return to the NBA, in his first game since an Achilles injury ended his season in January.
“For me, this game was more personal. I was there when he got hurt. I saw his facial expression and the way it happened,” Drummond said. “To see him go down like that and really making the strides he’s made to get back to where he is today, he looks good.”
Even with the hectic schedule over the weekend, Drummond said he was going to be there and pulled out the stops to make it happen.
“When he decided to play for the Drive, I said wherever he plays, I’m going to come watch him play until he’s back on the court with us,” Drummond said. “We don’t need to be here — we want to be here, which is why we showed up.”
Anthony steps up
The Pistons were without Aron Baynes (back spasms) for the four-overtime marathon against the Bulls, which gave veteran Joel Anthony the backup role, along with plenty of minutes.
Van Gundy said Baynes sustained the back injury in Thursday’s practice and tightened up Friday. With a couple of days to rest, Baynes should be on schedule to practice before back-to-back road games on Tuesday against the Miami Heat and Wednesday versus the Atlanta Hawks.
Baynes missed practice on Sunday, but more as a precaution and an extra day to recover.
“He’s better but they didn’t want him to do any twisting and turning,” Van Gundy said. “The plan is for him to be able to practice (Monday) and play on Tuesday.”
Anthony finished with two points and three rebounds in 14 minutes against the Bulls, showing the veteran leadership that Van Gundy sought in trying to bring him back on a new contract this year.
“I was telling the guys that you need at the end of your bench true pros. Joel Anthony is one of them,” Van Gundy said. “You never have a doubt that Joel will be ready to play. That’s why I badly wanted him back on this team — he doesn’t play much but I know he’ll be ready.”