Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson talks about returning to play in preseason games. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Auburn Hills — The wait is over for Reggie Jackson.
After missing the final nine games of last season and going through a 16-week protocol of non-basketball activities and some minor injuries in training camp, he’s medically cleared and ready to play.
Jackson will make his debut Monday night in the third preseason game against the Indiana Pacers.
“The plan is to play the first six minutes of the game, first six minutes of the second quarter and we’ll see how he feels at halftime and see how he feels tomorrow,” coach Stan Van Gundy said after Monday morning’s shootaround. “We’re playing it by ear with him.”
Although Jackson has played in 5-on-5 scrimmages in practice, he hasn’t played in a game since March 24 last season, at Orlando, when he had 11 points in 20 minutes. He was shut down for the last nine games of the regular season, before going into a five-month process to ease the wear and tear on his left knee tendinitis.
Jackson has looked good in post-practice workouts but getting back to the real thing hasn’t hit him yet.
“When I get to the building, I’ll be a little more ecstatic,” Jackson said. “I’ve been good, just happy to play a real one. I’m going to lie to you, I’m not super happy; I may be when I walk in the building.
“I had five months of just not doing anything so finally getting out there with my teammates in practice was my hurdle — that was my Christmas, to play with them.”
Van Gundy said at media day that he would have done differently last season, in bringing Jackson back from a platelet-rich plasma injection on Oct. 10 and the process of getting him back in the playing rotation. This year, they’ve been more cautious about all the little things, not wanting to exacerbate the knee or even a minor groin issue that Jackson has had.
Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy talks about Reggie Jackson's return to action. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Jackson appreciates the caution — and now is ready for the final three games of the preseason, before the regular season starts on Oct. 18.
“All parties were probably cautious especially with the way I came back last season and never feeling healthy,” he said. “My agency as well as the front office and training staff have done a great job of being in communication and I feel good up to this point. I’m ready to go out here and stick with the plan but unleash as much as they’ll let me unleash.”
In training camp, Jackson has had more issues with soreness in his right groin, but now he’s been medically cleared for game action. Van Gundy is excited about having Jackson back but not about missing two other starters: Andre Drummond (conjunctivitis) and Avery Bradley (ankle) will miss Monday night’s game.
“It’ll be good to see him out there,” Van Gundy said. “I’m hoping maybe Friday we get at least one exhibition game with our rotation playing. That’s been the only disappointing thing: we’ve had exactly zero time with our top five or six guys together.
“That’s not great but there’s nothing you can do about it.”