Reggie Jackson is the most important player on the Detroit Pistons this season, and it isn’t close.
Jackson got a five-year, $80-million deal this summer to be the next Isiah Thomas or Chauncey Billups – the point guard who leads the next great Detroit team.
The key is going to be his ability to run the pick-and-roll with Andre Drummond. Stan Van Gundy has built the roster around that strategy – letting a future All Star like Greg Monroe walk away and replacing him with Ersan Ilyasova just to give Jackson and Drummond more space to work their magic.
It has only been three preseason games, but there is certainly some work to do.
After Jackson’s disastrous preseason debut against the Nets, where he was one of several players called out by name by Van Gundy for a bad performance, he and the Pistons went to Milwaukee and lit up the Bucks – including Monroe – in a 117-88 win.
“I thought our ball movement was good,” Van Gundy told the media after the game. “What they created tonight is a blueprint of how we want to play. Now the challenge is to play like that night in and night out. The defenses will get better and everything else, but to continue to play like that is the challenge.”
The Pistons had turned over the ball 18 times in the first half against Brooklyn, but only did it four times in the first half against the Bucks.
“Something that we focused on and wanted to work on [for tonight] was playing unselfishly,” Jackson said. “We came out here with the right mindset, which we worked on yesterday, and I think it showed tonight.”
Jackson stressed, after a long lecture from Van Gundy, the team had learned that they have to play hard every night, even in the preseason, and that he has to be a leader.
“We have to come in ready to play each and every day and that starts with me,” he said. I have to come out, and collectively as a whole we have to have our mind in the right places to focus on what the task is each and every day.”
Problem solved, right?
Tuesday, the Pistons laid another egg in Indiana, losing 101-97 while committing 20 more turnovers. When asked if he felt the team had taken another step back, Van Gundy was his usual blunt self.
Absolutely,” he said in his postgame press conference. “We did not move the ball and we turned it over 20 times. Very disappointed, definitely a step back.”
“We probably gave them too many easy opportunities off of turnovers, so we’ve got to get better at that,” he said. “Luckily in this league, we’ve got another one tomorrow. We will get better then.”
The problem for the Pistons is that they don’t have nearly a big enough margin of error to play well offensively one night and then throw the ball all over the arena the next. They aren’t a great defensive team, they’re relying on inconsistent outside shooters and it’s a young team without a lot of experience making a run at the postseason. Without Jackson running the offense at a high level every night, the Pistons are going to spend another spring on the golf course, and the franchise will slip a little further under the sports radar in the Motor City.