At 9:45 this morning, ESPN's Marc Stein reported that Reggie Jackson would miss an unspecified amount of time with an injury.
3 minutes later, Stein reported that the injury was knee tendinitis, which Jackson revealed to be a chronic issue.
So how much time will Jackson miss?
Detroit hasn't disclosed this information yet, and it wouldn't be surprising if they don't actually have a timetable yet. Chronic knee tendinitis is a debilitating condition, especially for a pro athlete with an 82 game season (plus a possible playoff push). The issue, also known as Patellar Tendonitis or Jumper's Knee, stems from overuse causing small tears of the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap to the shinbone and is vital to kicking, running, and jumping. If untreated, those small tears become larger, and tendon damage persists long-term. This is the same condition that forced Danny Granger into retirement. If Jackson has played through Jumper's Knee for years, as he says, then he might miss half the season. Even if he successfully rehabilitates his patella, there's a high chance he will not return at full strength right away.
Source: not provided
Detroit is going to miss Jackson. He was far and away their best playmaker last year, especially out of the Pick & Roll, their preferred form of attack. He led the team in assists and had their highest usage rate, at 29%. He is the spearhead for everything they do on offense, and was simultaneously serviceable on the defensive end. That is a combination the Pistons no longer have on their roster with Jackson out.
The Backcourt Situation
Ish Smith will start, barring a miracle trade for a better Point Guard. The list of available free agents is less than enticing, unless Stan Van Gundy sees something nobody else does in Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Steve Blake, or 80-year-old Andre Miller. The trade market is also suboptimal, unless the Bucks want to give up Michael Carter Williams for free (which is possible, since his contract is up at the end of this season and they seem to have moved on from him as their answer at Point Guard).
So that leaves the Pistons' depth chart at lead guard looking like this:
- Ish Smith
- Ray Mccallum
- Lorenzo Brown
Smith won't be a minus as a starter, at least not offensively. But he won't be a plus either, and Detroit probably won't have enough firepower to win more than 50% of their games without Jackson. Where Detroit is really going to suffer, if they can't find a suitable backup, is when Smith sits. Stanley Johnson is way too unrefined to be the main P&R playmaker, and Mccallum just isn't dynamic enough. Tobias Harris is much better as a slasher than a ballhandler.
So what can Detroit do?
The best option, for now, is to stay put with the roster and hope Jackson's tendinitis isn't as bad as it looks. If it is Danny-Granger-level severe, then they will have to look for ways to shore up their backcourt. If the Pistons want to move on from Jackson and are willing to give up valuable assets, Jrue Holiday and Jeff Teague are a pair of expiring contracts worth looking at. Since that's unlikely after all the effort Detroit spent building their current core, there are a few other expiring PG contracts that could fit if the Pistons can stand to part with some of their foundation to make the salaries fit -- Patty Mills, Darren Collison, Jose Calderon, Greivis Vasquez, or Jarett Jack. Either way, this is not the way Detroit wanted to start its season.