Auburn Hills — Reggie Jackson made another small step in his rehab regiment.
Jackson, who has been out more than a month since having a plasma injection in his left knee and right thumb to treat tendinitis, participated in 5-on-5 non-contact team drills in Tuesday’s practice.
Although Jackson, the Pistons’ leading scorer last season, is progressing according to the original recovery timeline of six to eight weeks, he’s likely still a couple of weeks away from getting back to the lineup.
“Today he did all the non-contact stuff, so he did some game-speed shooting and he ran through dummy offense with us,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We had three segments and the defensive segment he did not do, but the offense, he did do.
“It was good to see; it was good to have him back out there.”
The Pistons have gotten off to a 6-5 start without Jackson and with Ish Smith in the starting role. Smith is posting 9.7 points and 6.4 assists, playing 30 minutes per game. The offense has struggled some without Jackson, but the Pistons are 5-0 at The Palace, including Monday’s 104-88 win over the Thunder on Monday night.
For the parts of practice in which Jackson was able to participate on Tuesday, he was fine, even attempting to dunk, according to Van Gundy. That’s an encouraging sign in the progression of returning to full strength, but the timeline still looks like it will be another week or two before he’s back in the lineup.
Van Gundy isn’t rushing the process and unless there’s some unexpected step forward, it’s still a waiting game.
“Nobody’s given me (a timeline). He was at five weeks yesterday and it was a 6- to 8-week thing,” Van Gundy said. “Next week would be the absolute earliest and I’d say that would be really, really optimistic at this point, to think he’d be back Monday of next week. I don’t see it now.
“How long it’ll take is hard to judge. What he seems tentative to me is his turns and cuts. When he opens up, he’s fine and shooting he was fine, but he’s a little tentative on changing direction.”
Drummond still ailing
Center Andre Drummond, who missed Monday’s game because of a sprained right ankle, did not practice on Tuesday and his status for Wednesday’s game at the Knicks is unclear.
“I don’t have any idea where we’ll be on that,” Van Gundy said. “We’ll know more (Wednesday morning) when he wakes up.”
Drummond (14.9 points, 14.3 rebounds) is the team’s second-leading scorer, ranks second in the league in rebounding. But backup Aron Baynes, who had a season-best 20 points in Monday’s win, is ready to make another start.
Baynes took another shot to the nose, somewhat shielded by the mask he was wearing after suffering a broken nose last month. Baynes said yesterday was the last day he was scheduled to wear the mask, but after the contact, he’ll continue to don it, as a precaution.
As the Pistons head back out on the road, where they’ve won just once this season, they have a better idea of what it takes to get more wins. Although they beat the Nuggets, they’ll have to ramp up their efforts against the likes of the Cavaliers, whom they’ll face on Friday.
“That starts with the mindset and as soon as we get on the plane,” Tobias Harris said, “having a mindset of being the enforcer and being the team that takes charge.”
In six games, they’ve allowed 105 points per game, compared to 85.6 on the road. That disparity is what Van Gundy is looking to correct, knowing that it won’t be an overnight fix.
“It’s just been bigger than anything I’ve seen. When you’re going on 100 possessions, we have about 22 points per 100 possessions difference,” Van Gundy said. “Even for a small sample size, that’s remarkable. We talked about that today and the need to bring what we bring at home on the road with us.”
Pistons at Knicks
Tip-off: 7:30 Wednesday, Madison Square Garden, New York
Outlook: The Pistons won the first meeting this season, 102-89, on Nov. 1 at The Palace. They’ve struggled on the road, going 1-5, but have won two straight overall.