Making his first official on-court appearance since tearing his Achilles tendon nearly 11 months ago, Pistons guard Brandon Jennings dazzled in his D-League rehabilitation debut, leading the Grand Rapids Drive to a 130-104 win over the Iowa Energy on Saturday.
Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy and teammates Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson were among the 6,240 who made the trip to West Michigan to watch a trio of assignees go to work for the Pistons’ minor league affiliate.
Pistons forwards Reggie Bullock and Darrun Hilliard joined Jennings for the one-day run with the Drive.
Jennings stumbled early, dribbling the ball of his foot on an uncontested behind-the-back maneuver near half court. But he recovered quickly, setting up Devin Ebanks for a spectacular off-the-backboard alley-oop dunk moments later.
Connecting on his first two shots from the field (one of which was a three-pointer), Jennings racked up 5 points and 4 assists by the halfway point of the first quarter.
Jennings, who finished with 11 points, 12 assists, and 5 turnovers in 27 minutes, appears well on his way to working himself back into the Pistons’ NBA rotation prior to the end of the calendar year.
“I thought it was a good first game for not having played in 11 months,” Van Gundy said following Jennings’ debut.
Following his early game connection with Ebanks, Jennings appeared to loosen up, attempting (and mostly completing) a handful of sly deliveries to streaking teammates in transition throughout the night.
While Jennings’ most recent target date for an NBA return has been rumored to fall on Dec. 29 against the New York Knicks, his performance on Saturday raises the question as to whether he may be available sooner than imagined.
For now, Van Gundy is pumping the brakes.
“Brandon will play when we think he’s the best option to play,” he said. “When that is, I’m not sure.”
The Pistons are on the road this week, heading to Miami to face the Heat on Tuesday before stopping by Atlanta to take on the Hawks on Wednesday. Depending upon whether Jennings makes the trip or opts to stay home, he could see another D-League opportunity on Dec. 23 against the Canton Charge.
Just don’t expect the Pistons to rush the process.
“The next step,” Van Gundy said, “is just to keep him moving forward in his rehab.”
Additional Notes & Observations
- Despite all eyes falling upon Brandon Jennings, it was Pistons forward Reggie Bullock who stole the show on Saaturday. Shooting 10-12 from the floor (including 6-8 from deep), Bullock finished with a game-high 29 points to go along with 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals.
- Pistons rookie Darrun Hilliard chipped in 23 points against the Energy. In three games with the Drive this season, Hilliard’s now averaging 25.7 points per game.