Reggie Jackson ditches walking boot, recovery progresses
Auburn Hills — Reggie Jackson moved around a bit slowly on Friday, but his small steps indicated a big step toward his return after suffering a severely sprained right ankle last month.
Jackson has shed his walking boot and is moving around without much trouble and is in week five of his projected six to eight weeks of recovery from the grade-3 sprain, which he suffered on Dec. 26 against the Indiana Pacers.
The Pistons (22-24) are 3-9 since Jackson’s injury, including the current six-game losing streak. The outlook doesn’t look much better, with the Oklahoma City Thunder — who hold the NBA’s longest current win streak, at six — and a home-and-home two-game set against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Team doctors re-evaluate Jackson weekly and he hasn’t experienced any setbacks in his recovery, which required him to wear a walking boot and sleep in a separate splint. On the current timetable, Jackson could be cleared to resume basketball activities in another couple weeks, then after he ramps up his conditioning, he could be ready to return to the lineup after the All-Star break, in time for the matchup against the Boston Celtics on Feb. 23 at Little Caesars Arena.
While Jackson is out, the Pistons have struggled to find an offensive rhythm with backups Ish Smith, Langston Galloway and Dwight Buycks. Galloway got his first start of the season, at point guard, to try to jump-start the offense, against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.
The results were mixed.
“We were trying to get a balance. The idea was in the starting lineup for Tobias (Harris) primarily but also for Avery (Bradley) to get a little more space on the floor, where guys have to play him,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “That hasn’t been as great a running lineup anyway, so a lot of times what we’ve had is Ish out on the break by himself. The idea is to get Ish back into that second unit with guys who run a little bit more and try to balance our shooting and our speed.”
Galloway finished with five points on 2-of-7 shooting, with four assists in 20 minutes. Both of his baskets came in the opening minutes of the first quarter and Van Gundy looked to Smith for longer stretches, including the final minutes of regulation.
Van Gundy said he’s not sure whether he’ll continue with Galloway in the starting lineup, but there could be some benefit to keeping Smith primarily with the second group.
“We’re trying to find an answer. The other idea with Ish was where we had our most success generally was when starters held their own and our bench outplayed the other bench,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve sort of lost that advantage and we’re trying to gain that back.”
Without Jackson, the Pistons also were missing their best fourth-quarter closer, which has limited their end-game options, including the final minutes and overtime in the loss to the Jazz.
“He’s the guy who’s been very good in those situations and by far the guy on our team who is comfortable in those situations,” Van Gundy said. “He’s been there a lot and he knows all the reads.
“Over his time here, we’ve had multiple repetitions of him running it and now we’re searching, little by little for other guys to do things they haven’t done. It’s been tough.”
Forward Jon Leuer had season-ending surgery on Friday in Indianapolis to repair his sprained left ankle and to remove bone fragments. Van Gundy said Leuer will remain in the hospital for 24 hours and remain in Indiana for a few days to follow up with the doctor on Monday.
If all goes well, Leuer will have a rehabilitation period of four months and could be ready to have a full summer for basketball activities and to return to the Pistons in time for training camp in the fall.
“Surgery was a success. This injury has been very frustrating but it's only another obstacle to overcome,” Leuer posted on Instagram. “I'm determined to do everything in my power to come back stronger than ever next season. Thanks for all the love and support.”
Reggie Bullock (right thumb) returned to practice on Friday and is questionable to start Saturday.
PISTONS VS. THUNDER
Tip-off: 5 Saturday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Notable: The Thunder (28-20), who have a league-best six-game win streak, have surged since their early-season chemistry issues. Russell Westbrook is coming off a 46-point performance in their win over the Wizards.