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Van Gundy on Jackson: “This isn’t a tryout”

The Detroit Pistons stand at just 1-5 since the acquisition of point guard Reggie Jackson. Contributing to the team’s struggles has been Jackson’s uneven play and apparent inability to develop and establish a true sense of on-court comfort.

With Detroit now dropping four full games out of the eighth spot in the East, things have gotten hairy enough to get the local fanbase stirred up and wondering if parting ways with a smooth operating D.J. Augustin was a wise decision in the midst of a playoff run. But for head coach Stan Van Gundy, his decision to deal at the deadline wasn’t just about making a run at the postseason, but setting the table for years to come.

Reggie Jackson
Jackson has struggled early with shot selection, frequently setting for difficult shots inside. (photo: Alyssa Blayney)

“We really liked (D.J. Augustin and Kyle Singler, traded for Jackson), so it wasn’t an easy call. But you just don’t get very many opportunities to acquire a really talented young player – you just don’t,” Van Gundy told NBA.com. “And if you wait until the summer, then it’s you against everybody else in a bidding war and his team’s got a chance to match (an offer sheet for Jackson, who will be a restricted free agent July 1).”

Ideally, Van Gundy likely would have preferred to ride his team while it was hot (though losing Brandon Jennings to injury dealt a critical blow to their impressive 2015 run). As a team that hasn’t seen the postseason since 2009, dealing with a vast array of coach, player, and management turnover, it’s become increasingly difficult to woo talent to Detroit through absolute free will. As a result, Van Gundy had to get a little creative in taking a shot at an up-and-comer like Jackson.

“It’s where we are right now as a franchise,” Van Gundy said. “It’s not going to be where we are, necessarily, in two or three years. But where we are right now, we’re not the destination place. We have to do things a little bit differently and we have to take advantage of those kinds of opportunities to get really talented guys.”

Now, about Jackson’s struggles.

Since coming over to Detroit on February 19, Jackson has seen his shooting percentage drop and his turnovers take a healthy jaunt upward, though the latter also came with an increase in assists. Here’s a side-by-side look at his contributions in Oklahoma City and Detroit:

OKC DET
Games 50 6
MIN 28.0 32.8
PPG 12.8 15.8
FG% .432 .366
3pt.% .278 .238
APG 4.3 7.3
TO 1.8 3.2

With Jackson due to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season, it would be fair to assume the Pistons were treating his stretch run as an improvisational tryout. If he impresses, look to hang on to him long term. If he struggles, cut the cord.

However, Van Gundy insists he’s in it for the long haul.

“That’s what we go in with. We never know what can happen (another team signing Jackson to an offer sheet) but that’s certainly our intent. We’re committed to him. It’s a long-term thing.

“This isn’t a tryout.”

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