Reggie Jackson finally has his shiny new toy. After years of biding his time behind Russell Westbrook, Jackson has leaped out of the shadows and into the hopeful hearts of Pistons fans. After wiping away the tears of joy, Jackson would have just about two months to showcase the talent necessary to justify a starting spot. As a restricted free agent, the Pistons will have the opportunity to match whatever offer comes Jackson’s way this offseason. However, head coach Stan Van Gundy has made it clear that Jackson is a priority for the Detroit front office.
Despite the vote of confidence from the big guy in charge, at times Jackson is playing like he sticks two fingers in his ears when the team huddles up. The team is now 2-10 since the Jackson acquisition (1-10 with him playing), and the ship is taking on water with each passing game. Prior to Brandon Jennings’s injury (and even after the Jackson trade), the expectation was for the Pistons to secure the last playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. Now, they’re just hoping these final regular season games will make their offseason roster decisions a bit easier while clearly placing their allegiance with Jackson. Still, there are plays throughout the recent game against Utah that represent some contributing factors to the 1-10 stretch.
Snapshot #1 Decision-making and chemistry: With seven minutes remaining in the first quarter – This alley-oop attempt illustrates Jackson’s lackadaisical high-risk passing and lack of chemistry with his new teammates:
Even prior to joining the Pistons, there were question marks regarding Jackson’s ability to consistently find open looks for his teammates. At times, his playmaking is like fitting a square peg into a round hole. Certain defensive schemes call for a particular reaction by the point guard in order to orchestrate the offense for an open look. Jackson, though, has a tendency to run the show his own way. Against Utah, Jackson decides to pull the trigger on an alley-oop attempt to Andre Drummond. Just seconds before Jackson’s attempt, he points to Drummond as if to tell him “Get up there, big fella.”
Only Drummond never sees Jackson’s salute. Just as the ball is released, Drummond is flat-footed and on his heels, and Derrick Favors is ready to wall off the attempt. As the newest leader of the team, Jackson needs to be more conscious of how to pick his spots while at the same time satisfying his teammates. Detroit’s roster lacks playmakers, placing even more of the burden on Jackson to get guys like Monroe and Drummond the ball in their sweet spots.
Snapshot #2 Over-dribbling: During second quarter broadcast – The Detroit broadcast plays two highlight clips of Spencer Dinwiddie moving the ball without it touching the floor. They hammer home the point that Dinwiddie whips the ball around, a subtle hint to Jackson’s affinity for over-pounding the rock.
Since coming over to Detroit, Jackson has taken 7.1 FGA per game after seven-plus dribbles, according to NBA.com. This number probably wouldn’t seem so bad when discussing a player like Chris Paul. Paul dribbles the air out of the ball on a great number of possessions as well. The difference is that Paul probes the defense and is always looking for an advantageous angle in order to slip a pass through the defense or to create a shot for himself. Jackson, however, isn’t getting the most out of his dribbles. He has been dancing with the ball at the top of the key, not covering any ground. It should be noted that the blame shouldn’t be squarely on Jackson’s shoulders. Most of his teammates have difficulty creating shots for themselves and others. At the same time, Jackson may be hesitating for just a fraction of a second, just enough evidence to demonstrate a lack of chemistry with his new teammates:
Snapshot #3 Shot Selection: With 8:45 left in the third quarter – Jackson has a mismatch with Favors guarding him on the perimeter but decides to take a long, contested jumper instead of attacking:
Seven useless dribbles https://t.co/1rzAksdhZz
— Alex Rose (@AxlRoseForReal) March 16, 2015
Jackson demonstrates his dribbling obsession, as well as his poor shot selection in the same play. Count the number of dribbles. That’s seven dribbles just covering about six feet of ground. Instead of launching there, Jackson needs to use a decisive dribble move in order to get past Favors, who’s actually out guarding him at the perimeter. It’s essential for Jackson to make it a point not to settle for contested, fadeaway jumpers. He’s shooting an anemic 27.0 percent from beyond the arc and has hit just six shots between 15 and 24 feet since arriving in the Motor City.
Snapshot #4 Turnovers: With six minutes left in the fourth quarter – Jackson checks in and turns the ball over on a hesitant pocket pass to Greg Monroe. While neither player is in rhythm, Monroe is barely looking for the pass as Jackson stops his dribble. On the next possession, Jodie Meeks’s pass is deflected and pinballs towards the opposite end of the floor. Rookie Dante Exum flies past Jackson before he realizes the ball isn’t heading out of bounds. Exum eventually secures the ball and another possession for Utah. Jackson doesn’t get credit for a turnover in the box score, but the lack of chase contributes to a bad crunch-time possession for the Pistons. At this point, Van Gundy decides to replace him with Dinwiddie for the final 4:32.
The ball gets stuck in Jackson’s hands far too often as he decides his next maneuver. All this does is give the defense an opportunity to recover and communicate with each other. At that point, it’s much easier to disrupt passing lanes and anticipate certain actions. If Jackson becomes more decisive and builds a rapport with his teammates, the 3.3 TO per game mark (that puts him in the top 10 among guards since the break) will start to dwindle.
These issues can be attributed to a multitude of factors. Jackson has never been a full-time starting point guard at any point in his career, and he’s now trying to learn the ropes while simultaneously learning the preferences of each teammate. Where Jackson is stubborn and prefers to do things his way, he also has the talent to make the necessary changes in order to better suit his team.
Detroit fans have been subjected to a roller coaster ride the entire season. After a disappointing first two months, the obituaries were just about written before Van Gundy decided to send Josh Smith packing and give Brandon Jennings full control. At that point, the team started to ascend and forced pundits to rip up their eulogies. However, the Jennings injury and Jackson’s subsequent struggles shot the coaster right back down to the ground floor. Let’s hope Pistons fans don’t have to get back in line.