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Pistons' Blake OK with Jennings' return: 'We're teammates'

Al Willman
Special to The Detroit News
Steve Blake

Auburn Hills – The day will come when Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings makes his return after missing nearly a year recovering from a torn Achilles tendon.

Steve Blake, Detroit's 35-year-old veteran backup, is OK taking a back seat when he does. He said as much after Monday's practice.

"That was an understanding of mine coming here," said Blake, who was traded to the Pistons from Brooklyn in July. "Coach Van Gundy and I talked about that. When he (Jennings) comes back, the chance of me going to the bench and him playing at some point was an understanding of mine. When that time comes, that's fine with me.

"It's a team thing. I don't see him and I as a competition. We're teammates playing against other people."

Jennings has dressed for the Pistons' last three games, but has not played. The team is 1-2 in that stretch.

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said Jennings is ready to play, but would not indicate when that might happen.

Pistons starters try to snap out of lethargic funk

"I think he's ready," Van Gundy said. "Our decision now – Steve's been playing well and our bench has actually been good the last three games – it's a matter of timing and when we want to go to him. He's ready to go now.

"It's not easy after 11 months off."

Jennings had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Grand Rapids Drive, Detroit's NBA Developmental League affiliate, in a rehab game last week.

Meeks making his way back

Van Gundy had an update for another injured Piston – shooting guard Jodie Meeks, who broke his right foot against Utah at the end of October.

"He's progressing along," Van Gundy said. "He doesn't have the boot on anymore all the time, and he's able to do some running on the treadmill. Not quite at full body weight, but he's able to start doing some stuff."

The original timetable of three to four months seems to be on schedule, but Van Gundy did offer a more specific period for Meeks' return.

"Probably around the All-Star break," Van Gundy said. "(Maybe) a little before or a little after."

Stopping Kristaps

Van Gundy kept his team's practice short Monday, in advance of its trip to New York Monday afternoon for Tuesday's game against the Knicks.

One player to watch for the Knicks is 7-foot-3 rookie forward / center Kristaps Porzingis. In 32 games for New York, he averages 13.3 points and 8.2 rebounds.

Porzingis had a double-double Sunday against the Boston Celtics, with 16 points and 12 rebounds. The Knicks lost 100-91.

"He's really long, so being able to contest on his shots is difficult," Van Gundy said. "He's got great range and you really can't get up and challenge on his shot, and then you've got to block him on the offensive boards with great length. I think his length and his skills present a pretty big challenge. I think he's already a pretty good player, but he's going to be an outstanding player in this league."

Pistons at Knicks

Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Madison Square Garden

TV / radio: FSD+ / 105.1 FM

Outlook: This is the first game of the season between the Pistons and the Knicks. The Pistons have lost two of their last three, while the Knicks are coming off a 100-91 loss to Boston on Sunday, their fourth loss in a row. Forward Carmelo Anthony led the way with 29 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks (14-18).