Auburn Hills — It’s a small step, but Reggie Jackson delighted in it anyway.
Just being back on the court following Wednesday’s practice, Jackson beamed with a smile as he put up some shots with a few teammates.
It’s the next stage of his rehabilitation from a Grade-3 right ankle sprain he suffered on Dec. 26 against the Indiana Pacers. The initial timeline was six to eight weeks, and Tuesday marked the eighth week since the injury.
“Jackson has been cleared to begin light running, shooting and continued ankle strengthening exercises,” the team announced Wednesday. “The Detroit Pistons medical staff will monitor progress throughout the week in anticipation of beginning an escalation process towards resuming normal basketball activities.”
While no timeframe has been established for Jackson’s next stage of doing cutting and participating in full-contact practices, if he continues to progress this week, he could conceivably proceed next week and potentially get back to game shape within a couple weeks.
Everything is still possibility and potentially, but it’s better than the previous stretch, where Jackson was still in a walking boot or hobbling along after practices. He’s made some progress, but with only 25 games left in the regular season, there’s not much of the regular season remaining for him to rejoin the fray and help the Pistons try to get to the postseason.
It’s a step forward, but Jackson still isn’t where he wants to be, at full strength.
“It makes it crappy. It honestly makes the recovery process crappy. You feel good that you’re getting better, but you’re still not quite there,” Jackson said. “I’m making strides but it’s not where I want to be — I want to be out there with my guys playing and I want to be fully healthy. It sucks, but I’m happy I’m making progress.”
For coach Stan Van Gundy, it’s a step toward getting his regular lineup back — and to mesh Jackson with Blake Griffin for the first time. That’s where much of Van Gundy’s time was spent during the All-Star break, looking for ways to get the offense kick-started.
Having Jackson back in the fold will make that a bit easier.
“He’s doing a little more running; now he’s running on full body weight. He’s not full speed and he’s certainly not cutting,” Van Gundy said. “He’s just starting the process at eight weeks to get back. I don’t know when it’ll be. When he’s ready, he’s ready.”
Striking a balance
In the first day back at practice, Van Gundy has to walk the line between having a substantive practice and not trying to do too much too soon. They have another practice on Thursday before the final stretch begins, Friday against the Celtics at Little Caesars Arena.
“You’re trying to do as much as you can in two days. We’re trying to make some more organized on the offensive end and trying to make some more defensive improvement without killing them,” Van Gundy said. “We come right back and play six games days in nine days and nine games in 15 days, so it’s a little bit of a challenge to get enough done that you think you’re better and try to conserve enough energy that you can play.”
As Jackson has watched from the bench and seen how Andre Drummond and Griffin have meshed in their first few weeks together, he’s imagining the possibilities of how things will be when he returns and adds another potent offensive option.
“The more you watch, the game seems like it moves slower, when you’re not out there moving at 100 mph,” he said. “There’s things you take away and things you get better at. There’s no teacher like experience, so I have to take the things I learned from watching and try to implement them as quickly as possible when I get back.”