Detroit — The Pistons continue to go shorthanded while three of their rotation players recover from injuries. Reggie Jackson (grade-3 ankle sprain) remains out until at least mid-February but the cases for Jon Leuer and Stanley Johnson are a bit more complicated.
Leuer has been out since Oct. 31, when he suffered a severe ankle sprain, which has had some complications and led to a fluid injection to try to generate movement around the joints. Leuer had a second injection recently and is trying to salvage his season.
“He took a second dose of the medication. Jon’s trying everything possible to not have to have surgery; he’s trying to exhaust every opportunity possible,” coach Stan Van Gundy said before Monday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets. “It’s not going great right now, quite honestly. Jon’s not at the point of being ready right now to call it a season and to go to surgery.
“An individual guy has to be comfortable with the decision he makes; we can’t make it for him.”
The injury didn’t seem to be as serious as it has become, with bone fragments complicating the issue. Leuer has been doing some shooting drills, but hasn’t been able to get back in the lineup. If Leuer chooses to have surgery at this point, it likely would end his season.
It’s a pain-tolerance issue for both Leuer and Stanley Johnson, who has missed seven of the last eight games because of a hip-flexor issue. Van Gundy said Johnson could play, but it’s dependent on how much pain Johnson feels and whether he has a full range of motion to play at an optimal level.
“In Stanley’s case — and I want this understood in the right way — he’s cleared to play. The MRI was clean and he doesn’t have a lot of pain, but he has tightness there,” Van Gundy said. “He decides that he can’t go. Stanley wants to play badly, but you can’t get inside a guy’s body and feel what they feel.
“If he said he could go, he’ll go — the doctors are not the ones holding him back. Same with Jon.”
That’s not to say that Johnson and Leuer aren’t tough or not willing to play. Their pain thresholds may be different and although medically they are cleared, they may not want to risk further injury or play through a high level of pain.
In any case, the injuries are impacting three key cogs from the rotation and putting more onus on the Anthony Tolliver, Luke Kennard and Dwight Buycks to contribute. It’s the way things are going to be, with the current roster situation.
“Reggie Jackson wouldn’t be able to go even if he wanted to, but the doctors have him on a rehab. With Jon, he’s on a specific treatment program but the pain is too much to go and Stanley has a tightness that he can’t go,” Van Gundy said. “(Johnson) went out and played the Brooklyn game and the next day felt tight. He doesn’t have a lot of pain, just tightness. In a lot of cases, it’s the player making the decision whether they can go or not go.”
In Leuer’s case, the Pistons also could see a Disabled Player Exception from the league, to get cap relief for his larger salary and importance to the team. The other option could be in a trade situation, opening more possibilities.
BENCHING THE BENCHMARK
The Pistons finished the first half of the season at 22-19, but Van Gundy didn’t want to read too much into the 41-game mark and what it could mean moving forward.
“I really don’t (think about it). I haven’t sat down to assess it,” Van Gundy said. “It’s an arbitrary spot with 41 games.”
Including Monday, they had 23 of their final 41 games at Little Caesars Arena and only 18 on the road, including a grueling six-game road trip out West.
“We’ll see. To me, none of that stuff means much,” Van Gundy said. “It’s just the next game.”
The Pistons announced the signings of Kay Felder and Reggie Hearn to two-way contracts, with both likely starting with the Grand Rapids Drive in the development league. Monday was the deadline for signing two-way players, with the Pistons also waiving Luis Montero in a corresponding move.