Pistons to lean on Ish Smith with Jackson injured

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Ish Smith

Ish Smith signed with the Pistons to be the backup point guard.

In some cases, the backup would be happy to move into the starting role.

But not Smith.

After Reggie Jackson had recurring issues with tendinitis in his left knee, coach Stan Van Gundy revealed Wednesday that Jackson will miss some time as he sorts through his treatment options.

“He’s going to be out for a while,” Van Gundy said Wednesday. “We don’t know how long — and that’ll all be determined by what he chooses to do.”

Jackson could miss as long as 6 to 8 weeks, depending on the treatment course he selects; Van Gundy said Jackson will make the decision in the next couple of days, though the options don’t include surgery.

Until then, the Pistons will lean on Smith, 28, who is in his seventh season and with his 10th team in the NBA. Smith split last season with the Pelicans (27 games, three starts) and Sixers (50 games, all starts) and posted 12.6 points, 4 rebounds and 6.5 assists.

Coming to the Pistons could be a bit of a rejuvenation, with the security of a three-year contract and more depth than he had with either team last year.

“I’ll use the experience from Philly, where I started a lot, and New Orleans,” Smith said. “We didn’t win as much as we wanted to, but I was a starter.

“Before you lead, you have to follow — whatever coach wants me to do.”

Van Gundy may need Smith to be the starter for at least the first month of the regular season, which begins Oct. 26 at Toronto. It’s a tough spot to move into, as Jackson (18.8 points, 6.2 assists) was the leading scorer and catalyst for the offense.

The Pistons will have to find other options, as they run most of their offense — mainly pick-and-roll plays — through Jackson. But Smith, along with Jackson, is among the top 10 in the NBA in creating plays off the pick-and-roll.

“Offensively, one of the things I thought was important was to diversify our offense and not be as reliant on (Jackson’s) pick-and-roll,” Van Gundy said. “This will give us a chance to do that.”

Despite the recent issues with the tendinitis, Jackson was durable last season, playing in 79 of 82 games and working through some breathing issues that limited him.

Inserting Smith in the starting lineup, Van Gundy will look to get the same up-and-down running game while also getting the other scorers, including Andre Drummond, Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris, involved.

In the preseason, it’ll be a dressed rehearsal for Smith, who also may have to guide the starting unit during the regular season, depending on how long Jackson is out. Jackson’s absence also means more playing time for Lorenzo Brown and Ray McCallum Jr., who are vying for the backup spot behind Smith.

Having a longstanding friendship with Jackson makes the temporary transition harder for Smith, who knows how valuable it is to have the full roster intact, to help build chemistry in the preseason. They were competitors when Jackson was at Boston College and Smith at Wake Forest and they’ve carried their friendship into the NBA.

“We played together in Oklahoma City too. He and Marcus and the team and the organization was on the rise. I played with him and Marcus and we’re really good friends,” Smith said. “Reggie’s a great dude and he’s upbeat. I’m praying for a speedy recovery because we need him back.

“But (he has to) be smart because this is his career and you don’t want to rush any of that stuff.”