Auburn Hills — Reggie Jackson leaned back in his chair in the Pistons locker room after Saturday night’s win over the Washington Wizards, knowing the question was going to come.
After Friday’s reports that the Pistons were in discussions with the Minnesota Timberwolves about swapping Jackson for Ricky Rubio, Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons team president and coach, quelled the rumors.
Van Gundy said the Pistons have discussions about all their players — but none have been seriously considered, and they haven’t been close to trading anyone. But Jackson’s agent felt it was serious enough to call general manager Jeff Bower. Van Gundy texted Jackson to let him know nothing had changed.
Still, reporters with microphones and recorders and cameras were waiting for Jackson to give the right sound byte.
He didn’t give in: “I had no idea; if (Van Gundy) traded me, it was news to me,” Jackson said. “I appreciate the text to let me know I’m his guy.”
And Jackson will continue to be the guy — with the $51 million remaining on his contract —unless something better comes along. Van Gundy said last week the Pistons wouldn’t deal just for change sake.
That especially holds true for the most important position on the court, at point guard. Given the state of things just after the midway point in the season, that doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen before the Feb. 23 trade deadline.
Starting-caliber point guards don’t just grow on trees.
Jackson is a polarizing figure, especially after coming off knee tendinitis. The Pistons were 11-10 while he was out, but are just 10-14 since his return. It’s convenient to point the finger at Jackson as the culprit for the Pistons’ mediocre play, but their problems are more complex and more numerous than just Jackson.
Jackson is having a solid season, posting 16.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists, hitting 37 percent of his attempted 3-pointers. Those numbers are down from last season, but it’s not clear they can find better in a one-for-one trade.
Even if the Pistons wanted to trade Jackson for another point guard, there aren’t a lot of better options out there. Given the standings in the Eastern Conference, there are at least 12 teams in contention, with four within four games of the No. 8 spot. In the Western Conference, the top seven teams are likely set, with the eighth-place Nuggets six games behind. There are three teams within three games of the No. 8 spot.
That leaves just a couple teams out of the playoff race — and a limited number of options at point guard that potentially would interest the Pistons. That is, assuming the contenders in playoff position aren’t willing to deal their starting point guards.
With that as a foundation, here are four options among the non-contenders that the Pistons could consider if they are thinking of trading Jackson:
■Rubio, Timberwolves: Getting just Rubio, 26, wouldn’t be enough to entice the Pistons. He’s a pass-first point guard but lower 3-point shooting (24 percent) doesn’t fit with Van Gundy’s system. He could help in spreading the ball around in the offense, but there are specific times he’d need to score. They already have a better player than that on their bench: Ish Smith. Contract: Through 2019, $29 million.
■Goran Dragic, Heat (19.6 points, 3.9 rebs, 6.3 assists): Rumors are floating around that the Heat are shopping Dragic, 30, but he doesn’t really fit the Pistons either. He’s a big-time scorer, but likely wouldn’t work as well in the pick-and-roll with Andre Drummond, which seems to be a prerequisite for any new point guard. Contract: Through 2020, $54.3 million.
■Eric Bledsoe, Suns (20.4 points, 6.1 assists, 5.1 rebs): Another volume scorer who, at 27, is having the best season of his seven-year career, though the Suns are having another down season. He’s only shooting 31 percent from beyond the arc this season, which is a concern, but his defense remains an asset. If the price tag isn’t too high, this could be a realistic option for Detroit. Contract: Through 2019, 29.5 million.
■Deron Williams, Mavericks (13.7 points, 2.7 rebs, 7.1 assists): The well-traveled Williams, 32, isn’t what he was. The Mavericks are the doormat of the west and although Williams is accomplished as a five-time All-Star, it’s not clear he’d be able to do much to improve the Pistons. Contract: Through 2016, $9 million.
Kings at Pistons
Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. Monday, The Palace, Auburn Hills
Outlook: The Kings (16-27) won the first meeting after overcoming an 18-point deficit in the second half. ... The Pistons (21-24) are looking to sweep their three-game home stand.