Van Gundy backs Jackson: 'He'll come back and be better'
Orlando, Fla. — Heading into the offseason, the Pistons have plenty of uncertainty. Coach Stan Van Gundy will have some tough decisions to make about which players to keep and which to try to deal to get the most out of the roster.
One piece that seems to be a keeper is point guard Reggie Jackson.
Van Gundy spoke for about 20 minutes after Tuesday’s shootaround, touching on a variety of topics, including his disappointment with the losing season, their process moving forward with evaluating players and coaching staff, and shaping up the roster.
After making the playoffs last season with 44 wins, the Pistons (37-44) will miss the postseason this year and go into the offseason with plenty of question marks. Part of the reason for the drop was Jackson missing the first 21 games and not playing at full strength this year.
The hope is that he can get back to 100 percent and lift not only himself, but the Pistons’ offense as well.
“There’s guys you look at and say he had a really tough year. Reggie Jackson had a really difficult year and it really affected our team,” Van Gundy said. “I think Reggie will come back and be as good as or better than he was two years ago. I honestly do. There were a lot of things that were physically and mentally very difficult for him to handle.
“He’s committed to getting those things changed. He’s a talented guy and he’ll be really good next year — I have confidence in him.”
It’s just part of the top-to-bottom scrutiny that Van Gundy and the entire organization will undergo to determine their path forward. For the players, it’s make-or-break time, with the swoon in the last few weeks. After they got to 33-33, they’ve gone 4-9 against a favorable schedule that featured many sub-.500 teams and could have led to a playoff push.
“That kind of evaluation has to go on with everybody, so it’s not just ‘He had a bad year, get rid of him.’ I’m not at that point,” Van Gundy said. “Hopefully, our evaluation process is a little more sophisticated than that and nothing is done out of blaming anybody or pointing the finger. If you’re going to blame anybody or point the finger, blame me and point the finger at me.
“When you’re the person in charge, it’s Harry Truman: The buck stops here.”
For Van Gundy to back Jackson seems to suggest that he’ll look to make other tweaks to the roster and trade Jackson, who has three more years and about $51 million left on his contract.
Getting Jackson back to full strength could solve many of the offensive woes, in addition to some of the defensive strides they’ve made this season.
“(Having Jackson) helps. That guy is a really good player,” Van Gundy said. “Two years ago, our offense was middle of the pack. The frustrating thing to me is we came into the year and we were a middle-of-the-pack offensive team last year and a middle-of-the-pack defensive team.
“We said we’ve got to get better at the defensive end of the floor and we’ve gone from 13th to seventh and made the defensive improvement, but our offense took such a step back that it didn’t end up helping us at all. We have to stay on the course we’ve been on defensively and continue to get better and get our offense back or even better than it was before.”