Pistons’ Reggie Jackson: ‘All our jobs are on the line’

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Reggie Jackson

Orlando, Fla. — Suffice it to say that the season hasn’t gone the way Reggie Jackson would have wanted.

The Detroit Pistons point guard had issues with knee tendinitis during the preseason, and after getting platelet-rich plasma injections during training camp, he missed the first 21 games.

Now with 51 games under his belt, Jackson still isn’t where he wants to be.

The Pistons are 34-38, in 10th place in the East, with 10 games remaining. They’re not out of the playoffs, sitting only one game behind eighth-place Miami. But after having lost five of their last six, they’re trending in the wrong direction, at the wrong time.

“(Missing the playoffs) would suck — it sucks every year you’re not in the postseason and not one of the teams competing to be the last one standing,” Jackson said Friday.

With one of the highest payrolls in the league, the Pistons had higher expectations — some pundits projected them finishing as high as fourth or fifth in the East — and not making the playoffs would be a colossal disappointment. It’s unclear whether it could mean changes in the front office for president-coach Stan Van Gundy or significant roster changes.

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For Jackson, 26, whose name was mentioned in trade speculation ahead of the trade deadline, much of the blame is placed at his feet because of his reduced production: 14.5 points and 5.2 assists — compared to career bests of 18.8 points and 6.2 assists last season.

“It’s tough. It’s a performance-based league so all our jobs are on the line,” Jackson told The Detroit News on Friday. “If we don’t’ get where we want to be, I’m sure coach knows as coach-president, he has a lot on the line. Myself, I was brought in to be the point guard and I have a lot on the line.

“We don’t know who’s going to be back next year or who’s going to be here tomorrow.”

It’s an ominous statement, but it remains true, especially given the team’s move to Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit next season. Making the playoffs would give them some positive momentum — much as it did after they ended their six-year postseason hiatus last year.

Any talk of missing the playoffs still is premature, with so many games remaining, but Jackson’s focus is on the upcoming schedule and the potential to get back on track.

“Get back to having fun and whatever happens, happens,” he said.

“You have to cherish every day as a blessing and have fun with it. When 2017-18 comes around, we’ll see who’s here and who’s not. Until that point, we’re not worried about it; we’re just going to keep enjoying this journey together and do our best to get in the playoffs.”

Jackson’s move to the bench doesn’t look to be permanent. Van Gundy said before Friday’s game against the Magic that he’s looking to infuse some pace and pep among the starters, who have struggled in recent weeks to avoid falling into first-quarter deficits.

When Jackson got the news that he would be a reserve for the short term, Van Gundy said he took it well. With 10 games left, there’s no guarantee Van Gundy won’t switch back to the original lineup.

“It’s not a long-term thing and it doesn’t reflect any long-term thoughts on him — and we made that clear to him,” Van Gundy said of Jackson.

“He was fine; he’s handled everything this year like a true pro. It’s been a very difficult year for him in a lot of ways: the injury, trying to come back and not playing the way that he’s wanted to play, and now coming off the bench. He’s handled it all great and his priority is the team.”