Pistons' Jackson: ‘I was a shell of myself’
Auburn Hills — In the most important game of the Pistons’ season, they didn’t have their biggest piece, at the biggest time.
Point guard Reggie Jackson was in a street clothes — trying, along with the energized Palace crowd, to emotionally will the Pistons to a win over the Miami Heat on Tuesday night. But Jackson was out for the second straight game, by coach-president Stan Van Gundy’s decree.
And there’s no sign of when Jackson might return.
“I don’t know — he’s day to day,” Van Gundy said. “It has strictly been my call all the way. Reggie wants to be out there.”
The Pistons led by four in the final minute, but relinquished the lead after Stanley Johnson couldn’t corral a pass and got tied up, leading to the Heat getting the ball and making the game-winning tip-in.
Season over — well, not mathematically, but almost. Maybe emotionally.
Van Gundy explained the decision to sit Jackson, whom he estimated had been playing at around 80 percent on a knee that had plasma injections in October, but still hasn’t reached 100 percent. Jackson wasn’t himself and it was painfully obvious to Van Gundy and anyone else who saw how Jackson performed last season, almost an All-Star level.
“It just felt a little different (all year). There were plays I made in ’15 and ’16 and gaps I could hit and had the confidence to get there,” Jackson said. “This season, at times I felt good and I could get there — and other times, I felt like I was a shell of myself. I could see the gap and couldn’t get there in time and couldn’t explode there or as quick.
“It didn’t feel like I was quite the same and that was something the organization and team saw and they wanted to take care of it.”
Van Gundy made the decision before Monday’s loss at the New York Knicks to rest Jackson indefinitely, leaving the door open to shut him down for the remaining seven games of the season. It’s not physical, as Van Gundy indicated that there’s no structural damage and Jackson isn’t feeling any pain.
But from the eye test, Jackson wasn’t the same player — and it became evident that he wasn’t impacting the game in a way that benefited the Pistons. Once Van Gundy decided to start Ish Smith at point guard and divide the minutes more equally, it seemed that he made his decision about Jackson’s short-term future, at least.
And Jackson hasn’t been living up to his own standards, either.
“It’s very tough, annoying and frustrating. You think you’re better than what you’re putting out there on the court,” he said. “I always have ultimate confidence in myself and always think I’m one of the best players on the court each and every night and if there are certain things I feel like I can’t do, it’s tough.
“But it’s going to be good in the long run, to force me to have to play different and expand my game. I haven’t been great this season by the way I measure myself. Without pain there wouldn’t be joy. I truly believe there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
It’s unclear whether there are long-term implications of sitting Jackson. His name had been mentioned in trade talks around the deadline, but when the Pistons didn’t make a deal, things seemed to settle down.
Moving forward, it doesn’t seem so certain.
“I only control what I can control,” Jackson said. “I’m just going to be the best I can be each and every day.”