Jackson had 28 points, on 11-of-18 shooting, and three assists in 32 minutes. The Detroit News
Oklahoma City — For most of this era of the Pistons, they were the pick-and-roll combination that defined the Pistons. They were two of the leading scorers and the faces of their last two runs to the playoffs.
There’s just one left.
After the Pistons traded Andre Drummond to the Cavaliers on Thursday, Reggie Jackson became the longest-tenured Pistons player. Beyond the chemistry they developed on the court as point guard and center, they also were tight off the court.
That made it harder for Jackson to adjust to the new normal without the big man on the road trip with him, having been there from the first day Jackson joined the Pistons.
“He was my best friend on the team and it’s been like that for 5½ years. He acclimated me when I first got to Detroit and we built a great friendship and brotherhood,” Jackson told reporters after Friday morning’s shoot-around at Chesapeake Energy Arena. “That’s my guy forever, so it was a tough day seeing he got traded to the Cavs but wishing him nothing but the best for him and his family.”
The change puts another responsibility on Jackson, as the senior member of the group and with so many young players on the roster to jump-start the rebuild, he’ll have to become a different type of leader in the locker room and on the court.
“I’ve been here the longest so have to take these guys under my wings and try to teach them. Being here in OKC where it all started for me, I had great vets who gave so much to me,” Jackson said. “It’s been integral in my success in my career and I want to give these guys all the knowledge I have and help them spread their wings.”
Blake Griffin has been around the team sparingly, focusing more on his rehabilitation since his knee surgery last month, but he’s on course for a good recovery and to return to the team healthy next season.
With the Drummond trade, the Pistons’ focus is pivoting to rebuilding, which wasn’t the objective in bringing Griffin over from the Clippers, but it’s the direction they’ll go.
Senior adviser Ed Stefanski said he hasn’t spoken to Griffin yet about how that will work when Griffin returns, but it’s not a chief concern right now.
“He’s working extremely hard to rehab and it’s a very difficult thing to do numerous times that he’s had to do in his career. But the positive thing about that is he’s rehabbing now, so when June rolls around, he will be totally healthy from that standpoint and he’ll be back doing basketball stuff,” Stefanski said. “So, all his basketball drills will be gearing up for the season and he’ll have a whole summer to do that. So that’s what he’s worried about right now.”
After the Drummond trade, coach Dwane Casey wouldn’t commit to Christian Wood being the full-time starting center. Instead, he wants young players to earn their playing time and step up to the challenge of playing well for longer stretches.
“I told the team that it’s time for Christian step up. The OMG moments are gone and now it’s real. You don’t have someone to fall back on,” Casey said. “It’s time to step in. This is for our young guys to grow up, to be responsible, be pros, do what you’re supposed to do and do your job. As much as anything right now, these last 30 games, make sure you do the job on the floor and off the floor to help the Detroit Pistons become a winning program.”