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Van Gundy not afraid now to pull trigger with Meeks

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Jodie Meeks takes a shot in the regular-season finale at Cleveland.

Auburn Hills — For most of the season Jodie Meeks was a forgotten man.

After suffering a fractured pinky toe in the second game, he spent most of the season rehabbing and shooting.

And shooting. And rehabbing.

He made a pseudo-triumphant return to the court Wednesday in the regular-season finale, chipping in 20 points in the reserve-dominated victory over the Cavaliers.

Game 2 to Game 82. But Meeks is back in the lineup — and could be an option for coach Stan Van Gundy to use in the playoff series against the Cavs.

“(I might not be comfortable) if he was a rookie or something but he’s been around a long time and played a lot of basketball,” Van Gundy said Saturday. “Nothing really fazes him so I wouldn’t have a problem using him.”

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first-round series is Sunday in Cleveland.

The quandary is the logjam of wing players who are playing well for the Pistons: Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and Darrun Hilliard.

On the plus side, it gives Van Gundy some options, as the players have different skill sets. On the other hand, it makes the choice difficult. Van Gundy admitted, though, that he may have been a little gun-shy in getting Meeks some game action before Wednesday.

“He’s been ready for a while and practicing OK,” he said. “You could make a case that it was a mistake not to play him earlier; I was afraid to play him in games that meant a lot after he had been out so long. I was more comfortable with guys who had been playing. That was the first game that the result wasn’t crucial to us, to get him out there.

“That may have been the right thing to do; it might not have been. Maybe I should have played him earlier but I wasn’t comfortable.”

Beard: Cower before the Cavs? Not these Pistons

Meeks went 4-of-9 on 3-pointers and hit four free throws in 27 minutes on Wednesday, which could be a prelude to how Van Gundy uses him in the playoffs.

He was brought to Detroit two years ago to provide scoring off the bench, but injuries have prevented Meeks from playing that role for any long stretches. Even when he got healthy this season, the improved play by Bullock and Hilliard kept Meeks in the back of Van Gundy’s thought process.

“He just wasn’t available and those guys had been playing and were in a little bit of a rhythm,” Van Gundy said. “I just thought that was the best way to go about it.”

Van Gundy said he hadn’t decided on what role Meeks might play in the series, but he'll be available, as Van Gundy announced before Game 1 that the inactives were Hilliard and Lorenzo Brown.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard