Auburn Hills — The wait is over for Reggie Jackson.
After missing the final nine games of last season and going through an inactive summer, with a 16-week protocol of non-basketball activity, plus some minor injuries in training camp, Jackson has been medically cleared and is ready to play.
Jackson made his debut Monday night, starting in the Pistons’ third preseason game, against the Indiana Pacers at Little Caesars Arena.
“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’s shootaround. “We’re playing it by ear with him.”
Although Jackson has ramped up his basketball activity and 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 in a blowout loss to the Orlando Magic.
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. In training camp, Jackson has looked good in post-practice workouts but getting back to the real thing is the next step.
“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 (game). 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 things differently last season, in bringing Jackson back soon after his platelet-rich plasma injection on Oct. 10. Jackson missed the first 21 games and returned to the lineup on Dec. 4.
This year, the training staff is being more cautious about all the little things, not wanting to exacerbate the knee or even a minor groin issue that has limited Jackson in the past week. 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.”
Jackson didn’t play the first two preseason games after some issues with soreness in his right groin, but now that he’s been medically cleared for game action, Van Gundy is excited about having Jackson back.
The Pistons get Jackson back in the lineup, but they’ll be without two of their other starters. Andre Drummond (conjunctivitis) and Avery Bradley (ankle) missed Monday’s game and are questionable for Tuesday’s matchup at Toronto.
“I’m hoping maybe Friday (at Milwaukee) we get at least one exhibition game with our rotation playing,” Van Gundy said. “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.”
The Pistons waived Landry Nnoko and Derek Willis on Monday, trimming their roster to 17. The big men will be able to play for the Pistons’ development league affiliate Grand Rapids Drive. Given the last two preseason games are on the road, the timing worked out to give them time to rest before the Drive’s training camp begins.
Pistons at Raptors
Tip-off: 7 Tuesday, Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Outlook: The Pistons have their first back-to-back of the preseason and G Reggie Jackson could play, depending on how he feels after his first action on Monday.