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Jennings: I'm ready now, but coach is the boss

Terry Foster
The Detroit News
Brandon Jennings

Auburn Hills – Pistons guard Brandon Jennings says he's ready to play now.

If it were up to him, he'd be in the lineup Saturday night against the Celtics at The Palace. He's ready, willing and able.

"I'm fine, I'm ready," said Jennings, who has not played for the Pistons since suffering an Achilles tear last January. "However, this is not my decision. This is my coach's decision, so I wait and see."

Jennings is dressing for games, but Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy wants to be cautious. He does not have a defined timetable for Jennings' return, but said he should be back in the lineup within the next two weeks.

Van Gundy wants to see how Jennings responds to back-to-back practices Sunday and Monday. After Saturday, the Pistons' next game is Tuesday at the Knicks.

"Our whole team needs work but it's good for Brandon," Van Gundy said. "We practiced before but it was more four-on-four. He got up and down. I think this is the first time he will get two practices in a row to get his legs underneath him."

Jennings can be a difference-maker for the Pistons. He is accustomed to starting but said he is willing to fill any role asked of him. After Jennings' injury the Pistons traded for Reggie Jackson, who has been the starter since and was rewarded with a five-year, $80 million deal.

Can Brandon Jennings mix well with other Pistons in new role?

Andre Drummond and Jackson watched Jennings play in an NBA Developmental League game last week in Grand Rapids, as he scored 11 points and passed for 12 assists in a dazzling highlight-real 27 minutes of play. He made 3-pointers and fed teammates for alley-oop dunks.

"He is looking better and better each and every day," Jackson said. "We all know what Brandon can do. He can fill up a stat sheet, score in a hurry. Unfortunately, we have not been scoring the most points in the league off our bench. That is somebody we can fall back on to get hot."

Jennings said he does not want to fill a defined role with the Pistons. He just wants to bring energy and fight.

"I'm looking to bring energy when I get a chance to play and see what happens," Jennings said. "I want to find guys when they're open, play defense, just play hard."

The Pistons' second-unit scoring has been spotty and the bench needs a go-to guy. Jennings can be that guy. Jennings also could be a dependable player in crunch time.

"We are waiting for him to get fully healthy," Jackson said. "He has been looking good. Of course it will take time to get all the way there. He has been pushing himself on the court. He has done everything asked of him. We all want him to do well. We are waiting for him to show the world that he is back and we are 100 percent behind him."

Defensive leaks

Van Gundy said the Pistons need to shore up their defense. He sees leaks in the pick-and-roll defense.

"I don't think our defense is where it should be even though we are winning games," Van Gundy said. "We have actually been winning games with improved offense; I am glad we are improving. But we've got to get a defensive focus and mentality back. We will spend time on it the next two days. I want to get back to where we are solid on that end of the court."

The Pistons are 15th in the NBA in scoring defense, giving up an average of an even 100 points per game. They are also 19th in field-goal defense, with opponents shooting 45.3 percent.