Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson says his ankle is feeling better as he tries to return to action this season. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Auburn Hills — As Reggie Jackson continued his rehabilitation from a severely sprained right ankle, he did some shooting drills with forward Henry Ellenson and assistant coach Otis Smith after Wednesday’s shootaround.
On Monday, Jackson played one-on-one with Pistons assistant video coordinator Jordan Brink, who played at Calvin College in Division III three years ago. That workout didn’t go as well as Jackson planned, as he lacked his normal lateral quickness and was still a step slow.
On Wednesday, Jackson looked better, doing some quick movements and moving into shots without much difficulty.
It’s an encouraging glimpse of Jackson’s progress, as he still thinks he can make it back this season and play. The Pistons have just 18 games remaining, including Wednesday night's nationally televised matchup against the Toronto Raptors.
“In a lot of ways, it’s been tough. It’s (past 30 games missed) now and I never envisioned a sprain lasting this long,” Jackson told The Detroit News. “Usually, you bounce back and play within a few hours or a few days or a week’s time. I never envisioned being out this long. The season’s been up and down and I just really want to go out there and play.”
Wednesday is the 10-week mark since Jackson suffered a grade-3 ankle sprain on Dec. 26 after landing on Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner’s foot and writhing in pain on the court. He missed 30 games last season because of knee tendinitis and after sitting out 31 games since the ankle injury, he’s looking to bounce back before the season is done.
But there isn’t much of the season left, and a potential return date to full-contact practice doesn’t look to be as close as the initial projection that coach Stan Van Gundy floated last week.
“I just hope to get back. The date fluctuates with the training staff, but I just want to play basketball. I’ve been out 2½ months. I never would have though anything like that from an ankle sprain,” Jackson said. “Just getting in and flowing and shooting with (Ellenson) and some of the teammates and getting back to regular things and feeling great.
“I just can’t wait for the day I can get back out there and play.”
Van Gundy said last week that he hoped to get Jackson back in full practice ahead of next week’s six-game western trip, but without some progress in the coming days, that timeline could get pushed back.
It might seem pointless for Jackson to push himself to return and risk further injury, but there’s plenty to be gained from playing even a few games, starting to gain some chemistry with cornerstones Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin.
“(Returning) this year would be of more value because any games he can get under his belt with Blake and Andre both together would be extremely helpful and help the evaluation process going forward,” Van Gundy said Wednesday morning. “(It helps with figuring out) what we need to do differently offensively and things like that. (Jackson) hasn’t had a practice with them yet, so hopefully we’re moving along.
“He did some shooting yesterday and some lateral movement today. Hopefully, he’ll be able to do a little bit tomorrow. It’s nothing I have any control over.”
Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson practices Wednesday, as he recovers from a sprained ankle suffered in December. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
The Pistons (29-35) are floundering, having lost nine of their last 11 games and have fallen 4½ games behind the Miami Heat for the final playoff spot in the East. They haven’t been eliminated mathematically, but given the way the Pistons have been playing in the past few weeks, a big turnaround seems unlikely.
“I’m very optimistic; it’s five games but the other team can lose five games (too), but you have to do your part,” Jackson said. “I’ve not someone who says die or rolls over and quits.”
Jackson is critical to the future of the franchise, as the third piece to go with Griffin and Drummond and getting a glimpse of how they all play together — even for only a few games — could help determine whether Van Gundy gets to return for the final year of his contract or if the franchise goes in a different direction.
“We think those three guys will be good together; we may get a better look at exactly what needs to be done around them with the offense and defense. It would be helpful, but it’s not in our control,” Van Gundy said. “He’s already been out two months and won’t be back before 2½ months. It’s 10 weeks today, so it’s a long time. It’s not just conditioning; it’s playing the game with timing and playing with new teammates.
“It’s unfortunate; it’s two years in a row where that’s been a lengthy injury and the process of bringing him back has been difficult for our team.”
Despite Jackson’s injury history, Van Gundy is undaunted about what the future could hold for his star point guard. It just starts with getting back to good health and building on that in the offseason.
“He was playing really well when he went down this year. He’s still a young guy and I don’t think there’s anything long term or any reason to think he can’t come back and play at a very high level,” Van Gundy said. “That’s not a concern of ours at all; our concern is for this year and when do we get him back and how’s he come back and how to fit him in.”