Houston — For most of the season, the Pistons bench has been near the bottom of the league in reserve production. They’ve been mostly up but down during some stretches of the year, as they’ve tried to work through some injuries.
Brandon Jennings has worked his way back from an Achilles injury and they could be getting another boost from another key piece.
Jodie Meeks, who hasn’t played since suffering a fractured pinky toe in the second game of the season, has been on the mend and is nearing a return. The timetable for Meeks has been somewhere around the All-Star break in mid-February and Meeks is progressing toward a potential early return.
“He’s running and jumping on the court,” coach Stan Van Gundy said during Wednesday’s shootaround at Toyota Center. “(His comeback) could be even earlier. Once he gets back to practice, it’s just us seeing where he is. We could (see him before All-Star break).”
Meeks had been limited to shooting drills and running on a treadmill without bearing all of his weight. He’s recently had some of the restrictions lifted and has been doing more, including jumping on his practice shots and running a bit more.
Van Gundy projects that Meeks could participate in practice Sunday in Utah, which could speed up his return to the court in game action.
“Hopefully, by the end of (next) week, he’d be pretty much back into practice and we’d see how it goes from there,” Van Gundy said.
Meeks admitted the rehab process has been tough, but he’s looking forward to getting back on the court and helping out.
With Kentavious Caldwell-Pope playing extended minutes with the starting unit and doubling up with the reserves, Meeks’ return could be welcome addition, adding some shooting touch and giving the Pistons’ defensive stalwart a few more minutes’ rest.
“It seems like I’ve been out a year in my mind. I guess it’s better sooner than later,” Meeks said. “My role doesn’t really change — come in and knock down shots, score, play hard on defense.
“Whenever it is I come back, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to help and hopefully, we’ll make this playoff push.”