How Reggie Jackson’s return can impact the Detroit Pistons

Detroit Pistons Reggie Jackson warming up before Jan. 9 against Cleveland. Jackson hasn't played since the first two games of the season. (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Detroit Pistons Reggie Jackson warming up before Jan. 9 against Cleveland. Jackson hasn't played since the first two games of the season. (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Detroit Pistons are going to get a lift when Reggie Jackson returns. His leadership will impact games and his play will help the point guard conundrum.

Reggie Jackson is nearing his return with the Detroit Pistons, and it could come as soon as Wednesday night against the Sacramento Kings.

Jackson, 29, has been bothered by a back injury that has caused him to miss the last 42 games of the season. But he is listed as questionable on the initial Pistons injury report for Wednesday’s game.

On Monday, Pistons coach Dwane Casey told reporters that Jackson has been cleared to return and could do so as early as this week.

“A lot is going to depend on Reggie,” Casey said. “He’s been in practice dunking on people and talking more than anybody else, so I’ll be glad when he gets back.”

With an eye-popping remark its hard to question where Jackson’s activity level will be. But it will likely come in short spurts, similarly to how the Pistons have managed Derrick Rose‘s minutes this season.

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Until recently, Rose was playing around 25 minutes per game. Over the last seven games it has spiked to 31.4 minutes per game and he’s proving he can play with the starting unit. His numbers are up to 23.4 points, 6.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game during the seven-game stretch.

That will provide Jackson some time to get fully healthy and into the flow of basketball games. If needed, the Pistons are afforded the opportunity to rest Jackson to provide extra time off.

Over his Pistons career, it’s clear that Jackson is a strong leader. His veteran presence will be a key for the Pistons to close out the season. In the past decade, a healthy Jackson meant a playoff appearance for the Pistons, reaching the postseason in 2016 and 2019 when he played 79 and 82 games, respectively.

But this Pistons team is the deepest of past Pistons teams. Rose is a big part of the success but so, too, has been the development of Bruce Brown, who has developed on the fly as a point guard. Brown can return to his perimeter defender role with Rose and Jackson sharing point guard duties. But it also makes the offense more versatile knowing a second ball handler will be sharing the floor.

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Rose’s success as a starter should remain as Jackson should be used in a reserve role. With Brown’s development, it’ll also allow Rose’s minutes to trend back to a healthy 25-27 per-game range. The key to watch with Jackson will be his explosiveness.

If Jackson is able to make hard cuts in the pick-and-roll, he could be a key playmaker and get good looks around the basket. His ability to push the pace and get the Pistons into the flow of their offense is another key as he returns.

He was injured in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, playing a total of 97 games. That’s when his minutes started to dwindle and the new regime took a similar minutes management approach as the Pistons have shown with Rose. Over the last three seasons, he’s averaging 27.5 minutes per game in 179 games.

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Detroit will need him to be healthy. Blake Griffin had his second knee surgery in eight months and will likely miss the remainder of the season, which was the worst of his career by a landslide. Expect the Pistons to continue to manage Jackson’s minutes, and Rose’s too.

Rose has shown he can handle the bump in minutes, expect Detroit to be cautious easing Jackson back as a result. If the Pistons are going to make a run at the playoffs, they’ll need both of them and can’t afford to overuse either.

The Pistons (16-28) enter Wednesday’s game three games behind the Brooklyn Nets for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Brooklyn (18-24) has lost four straight and has dealt with injury issues of its own with Kyrie Irving.

But a lot can change over the next two weeks as the Feb. 6 trade deadline nears. Detroit is at the forefront of trade rumors with Rose, Andre Drummond, Langston Galloway and others circulating. The Pistons roster could take on a different look in a short amount of time.

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For now, it’s exciting to have Jackson coming back. He has plenty to play for, including a new contract as he enters free agency this summer.