Meeks’ status for rest of season murky after setback

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Boston — Pistons guard Jodie Meeks sat in the locker room before Monday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets and got treatment on his foot, an all-too-familiar routine as he’s rehabbed from a broken toe.

He’s missed all but two games this season — and he likely won’t play a significant role for the Pistons for the remainder of the season.

Following a Monday morning appointment with surgeon Dr. Martin O’Malley to assess his progress, Meeks learned that the foot hasn’t healed properly. It’s a setback that likely will mean that Meeks won’t play much this season, if at all.

Coach Stan Van Gundy said after Tuesday’s practice in Boston that the outlook is discouraging, especially given the likely timeline for Meeks’ return was in the next couple of weeks.

“We’re backing off until March 1; for practical matters, it’s really hard to see him being able to get back and make much of a contribution this year,” Van Gundy said. “The first day he would be able to start ramping it up would be early March. He’d need a couple weeks to ramp it up and then you’re down to the last month of the season by the time he’s ready to go.

“It’s unfortunate, but if he can help us at the end of the year, we’ll see, but it would be hard to see at this point.”

It’s yet another setback for Meeks, 28, who signed a three-year, $18.8-million deal in 2014 and has been beset with injuries. He’ll look to come back at full strength for next year, the final year of the contract, when he’s set to make $6.5 million.

Meeks recently had been cleared to do some individual work but hadn’t begun full-speed practices with the team, which was the next step in his rehab. His absence likely means more playing time for rookie Darrun Hilliard and reserve wing Reggie Bullock.

Ahead of the All-Star break, the Pistons are dealing with a couple more health concerns, including Marcus Morris (knee tendinitis), Reggie Jackson (jammed thumb and dehydration), Aron Baynes (knee), Ersan Ilyasova (groin) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (oblique).

Fatigue concerns

Van Gundy also is concerned about fatigue — mental and physical.

“I don’t know if that’s fatigue catching up 50 games in or if we’re in a tough stretch in the schedule where we’re playing a lot, another 30-day stretch of not having two days between games ever,” Van Gundy said. “But I know we’re a lot better defensively than we’ve shown over the last couple weeks, and we’ve just got to get back to it.”

The Pistons allowed the Nets to shoot more than 50 percent Monday, but were able to recover and move ahead in the final minutes.

Van Gundy, however, will not use fatigue as an excuse.

“A lot of people in the NBA are fatigued right now; that’s the NBA season and that’s the grind,” he said. “That’s where our inexperience maybe is catching up with us. When you’ve gone through the grind enough, you know how to manage it and understand how to play, even when you’re fatigued.

“The experienced teams are better in those situations because they understand that they can still play well when they don’t feel great and they don’t give in to it.”