Auburn Hills — After a tough, last-second loss on Tuesday night to the Miami Heat that effectively put a blowtorch to the Pistons’ playoff hopes, coach Stan Van Gundy wasn’t in the mood to talk about Reggie Jackson.
Van Gundy benched Jackson for the previous two games and didn’t dismiss the idea of shutting Jackson down for the final seven games of the regular season. It’s not that Jackson is feeling pain from his knee tendinitis or that there’s a complication.
He said that it’s just fatigue and that Jackson can’t make plays that he made last year, before treatments on his knee in the preseason. Jackson’s knee and his place on the team has been a story all season.
“One of the things that’s worn him down and worn us down is that it’s the year of Reggie — that’s all we talk about every day,” Van Gundy said tersely following Tuesday’s loss. “He’s injured and (the questions have persisted: ‘When is coming back? Do you like the way he’s playing? Do you need to make a change? Is he coming back?’ It’s all we talk about.
“We lost a really tough basketball game and he wasn’t playing — that’s not what we need to talk about right now.”
It’s a fair point that the timing wasn’t right Tuesday, but the question needs to be revisited. Jackson was the leading scorer last season and was the engine to the pick-and-roll offense that the Pistons thrived on last season.
Though Van Gundy wanted to diversify the playbook and get more from Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the plan still called for a heaping helping of Jackson’s pick and roll. When Jackson missed the first 21 games, the rest of the group got comfortable with Ish Smith, who distributes more and plays a different style than Jackson.
“We’ve had to adjust a little bit. If you look at the inconsistency throughout the year, a lot of that comes from us not finding what our identity is as a team,” Harris said. “Last year, we were a pick-and-roll type of team. Between Andre and Reggie, that opened up the game for everybody else.
“This year, at the beginning of the year, we had to find what our identity was and it took us a couple games to figure out that we were a team that has to defend, get out in transition and get easy baskets that way. That was pretty solid when it was working.”
Harris has taken the reins as the leading scorer, at 16.2 points, in 47 starts and 28 games off the bench. Without Jackson at full strength, the pick-and-roll has broken down, forcing the other perimeter players to create offense differently, which has been a struggle at times.
“Reggie probably wants to play and be at his best but right now, if you look long term, it’s (not playing) probably what’s best for him and his body, too,” Harris said. “The biggest thing is the rest and recovery in this league. If you're lingering and feel like you can’t give it your all, it’s best you get proper treatment and get back and ready.”
In its Last-Two-Minute Report, which reviews the calls of the final minutes of close games, the NBA revealed that the officials missed two crucial calls in the final seconds of the Pistons’ loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday night.
Heat center Hassan Whiteside tipped in the winner as time expired, but on the same possession, the report indicated that Rodney McGruder fouled Ish Smith in going for an offensive rebound with 5.4 seconds left. Just after that, Whiteside grabbed Andre Drummond’s jersey, “affecting his ability to retrieve the rebound,” according to the report.
Pistons vs. Nets
Tip-off: 7:30 Thursday, The Palace of Auburn Hills
Outlook: The Nets (16-58) have won both meetings this season, including a two-point win last week in Brooklyn.