The Impact of Reggie Jackson’s Knee Injury

Jan 13, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) goes to the basket off of a Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) pick during the first quarter against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 13, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) goes to the basket off of a Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) pick during the first quarter against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports /

Reggie Jackson’s knee injury has impacted his play and the Detroit Pistons overall success to a far greater extent than everyone originally thought.

On October 10, 2016, Detroit Pistons fans were disheartened to hear the news that their point guard and floor general, Reggie Jackson, would miss an extended amount of time due to recovery from knee tendinosis, a chronic form of knee tendinitis.

"“We’re still chasing that Eastern Conference Finals this year.”"

That was the quote that Jackson left us with in an Instagram video of him leaving his second platelet-rich plasma injection treatment. Expectations have tempered mightily since then, and success for this Pistons squad would likely come in the form of a playoff win against a top two seed in the East.

Although the Pistons got swept in the first round of the playoffs last year against the Cleveland Cavaliers, many fans were optimistic about their chances of competing for a top-five seed this year. Many expected to see improved performance with their floor general back with the team and in the starting lineup, but the Detroit Pistons find themselves struggling to hold on to the eighth seed.

So that then begs the question: Is Reggie Jackson’s knee injury still impacting the team?

Before that question can be answered, it’s important to understand what chronic knee tendinitis is.

What is knee tendinitis?

Knee tendinitis, or commonly known as “Jumper’s Knee” occurs when the mechanisms used to extend the knee are overused, specifically the patellar tendon (tissue connecting the knee cap to the shin bone). Repeated stress and impact can cause the tendon to become inflamed and can cause degeneration of the tissue.

What are the treatments?

Treatments for chronic knee tendinitis include extensive physical therapy, rest and ice, anti-inflammatory medications, and significantly decreasing the activities that aggravate the patellar tendon.

One aggressive form of treatment is a platelet-rich plasma injection (PRP). When a patient has knee tendinitis, scarring occurs over the affected area and sometimes not enough blood can get to the area to promote healing. Since blood flow is our body’s method of providing the injured area with plenty of nutrients, a PRP injection involves removing some blood, processing it, and injecting it back into the affected area to assist with the healing process. Typically, this is followed by a couple weeks/months of rest to allow for the healing process to take place.

On October 10th, Reggie Jackson underwent his second PRP injection. His first injection took place in 2011. When asked about his knee problems back then, he replied with:

"“Thats something I’ve dealth with since I got into the league. […] If people backtrack, I got an operation in 2011, but its just taking care of it, maintaining it.”"

This is concerning because repeated PRP injections indicate that the knee tendinitis is quite severe. Playing basketball at a high level is affecting the healing process and without an adequate amount of time away from basketball, this problem will continue to occur and affect Jackson’s play.

How is it affecting the team?

Reggie Jackson is averaging fewer attempts at the rim and more shots from the mid-range, either in the form of jumpers or floaters. Last season, Jackson averaged 10.6 drives per game. This season he’s averaging only 7.3 drives per game.

When Jackson does get to the rim, he is one of the worst at converting his attempts in to points. His points-per-possession at the rim (0.862) is the second worst in the NBA, according to Zach Harper.

Is this a result of his knee tendinitis?

Jumper’s knee can drastically affect explosiveness and jumping ability – key traits necessary for success in converting at the rim.

This affects the dynamic of the rest of the starters as Andre Drummond becomes less effective on the pick-and-roll, overall ball movement suffers, and drive-and-dish becomes less frequent which greatly affects the other shooters on the floor.

Although Jackson has never been known to be a defensive stalwart, his defensive abilities have taken a noticeable dip this season and have been affecting the team as well.

Reggie Jackson’s defensive rating last year was 104.1, which ranked 73rd among guards (minimum 41 games played and 10 minutes/game). His 2015-16 defensive rating was the worst of his career…until this year.

This season he’s posting a significantly worse defensive rating of 111.2, which would rank 129th among guards and is the worst rating on the team.

Lateral quickness is key to defending in the NBA ,and is also affected by knee tendinitis. It’s absolutely possible that Jackson’s ability to stay in front of his man has been compromised by this knee injury. That could also explain the dip in team defensive rating upon Reggie Jackson’s return to the court.

Combine the toxic mix of offensive inefficiencies with the defensive liabilities, and you get an overall change in net rating with Reggie Jackson on the court vs. off the court of -12.2.

With all of the frustration surrounding Jackson, many have clamored for Ish Smith to start (including myself) as the Pistons become statistically one of the best teams in the NBA with him on the court.

Starting Ish Smith would not only improve the ball movement, it would also give Reggie Jackson a chance to utilize the limited explosiveness that he has in meaningful spurts of minutes.

However if the Detroit Pistons find themselves on the “outside looking in” with respect to the playoffs, maybe resting Reggie Jackson for the rest of the season would be wise.

The best treatment for chronic knee tendinitis is prolonged periods of rest and decreasing the activities that can aggravate the knee. Giving Jackson an extra couple of weeks in addition to an entire offseason to rest and rehabilitate his knee might be the best course of action for both the Detroit Pistons and Jackson moving forward.