Auburn Hills — At this time last season, Reggie Jackson wasn’t even a consideration for the Pistons’ playing rotation, having just had a platelet-rich plasma injection in his left knee. Now, after a summer of resting and strengthening his knee, he’s an option — but so is Ish Smith.
Coach Stan Van Gundy will make the final call on which will be his starting point guard, but it won’t be easy. Smith was the Pistons’ most consistent player in the preseason and Jackson still is building his knee strength and endurance after missing the first two exhibition games.
With the open of the regular season approaching on Wednesday, Van Gundy is looking to sort things out — and it might not matter who’s starting and who’s playing with the reserves.
“They’re both going to play with both units, so I don’t worry too much about that,” Van Gundy said after Sunday’s workout. “Even in practice today, we switched them from segment to segment, so they’re both playing with everybody. We haven’t locked either one of them into one unit or the other.”
Smith got the first two starts and had good chemistry with Avery Bradley and Stanley Johnson; Jackson hasn’t found his shooting stroke and has struggled with floaters. It’s about timing and after a long layoff, it’s going to take more than three preseason games to get that back.
Van Gundy isn’t worried about the split of minutes or the rotation, though he’s partial to keeping Jackson paired with Andre Drummond because of their pick-and-roll potency. Smith is like a chameleon; he can play with almost any group of five and excel.
Even if Jackson starts, Van Gundy could get creative with the rotations to ensure that both are utilizing their strengths in the right lineups.
“Those two are going to play 48 minutes total, whether it’s 26 and 22 or 28 and 20 or 24 and 24, the biggest spread it might get to if one of them was having a great night, might be 30 and 18,” Van Gundy said. “They’re going to take up the 48 minutes — we need them both to play well.
“More than any position for us, both of those guys have to play well. If we have one of them playing well and not the other, that’s a problem for us.”
Jackson had been limited in the preseason but began a rotation of playing the first five or six minutes of each quarter, then played about nine minutes of the first quarter of Friday’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Pistons picked up the team options for Stanley Johnson and Henry Ellenson for the 2018-19 season, adding a year to their rookie contracts. Both forwards have made strides in the offseason and are in line to get more playing time this season.