AUBURN HILLS – The numbers aren’t pretty, but Reggie Jackson got most of what he wanted out of preseason.
Getting out of it on two healthy legs – in stark contrast to a year ago at this time – tops the list.
Turning the corner and whizzing past Darren Collison in his debut last Monday was one hurdle cleared. Playing 28 minutes at Milwaukee on Friday without abject fatigue was another. Players usually can’t wait for training camp and the preseason’s drudgery to end, but this season Jackson might have wished for another game or two to clear another hurdle – recalibrated timing.
But Sunday offered another practice opportunity to do so and Monday and Tuesday give him two more chances to rev the engines in advance of Wednesday’s regular-season opener.
“I’m confident, but the beginning of the season is kind of ugly for all teams,” Jackson said. “We’re going to have little missteps, a few of ’em here and there. I’m going to try to keep my turnovers down, but I’ve still got to be on the attack. I feel like my timing is good. Wednesday will be the first test and then keep trying to progress after that.”
Stan Van Gundy saw progress – at least from a conditioning standpoint – in Jackson’s Friday outing after he struggled in the previous game at Toronto while playing a back to back coming off of a week missed with a groin strain.
“His conditioning’s gotten a lot better. He went almost nine minutes in that first stretch the other night,” he said. “We played very good defense in that time. He was part of that, putting in good effort, so I think it’s getting better and better. No question about it.”
Van Gundy still isn’t certain who’ll start at point guard, Jackson or Ish Smith, but the decision won’t be based any longer on managing Jackson’s minutes, at least. And the identity of the starter, Van Gundy said, is a bigger deal to fans than it is to him.
“It makes a statement. Some players get very concerned about it and fans get really, really concerned about it,” he said. “Those two are going to play 48 minutes, total. If it’s 26 and 22 or 28 and 20 or 24 and 24, I think about the biggest spread it might get to if one of them was having a great night might be 30 and 18. But they’re going to take up the 48 minutes. We need them both to play well.”
Jackson was limited to three preseason games and only one of those was with his new backcourt partner, Avery Bradley, and Stanley Johnson. He got just two games with Andre Drummond, with whom he figures to be partnered in a dozen or more pick and rolls per game, a play that requires feel and timing.
“That would’ve been great to get a little more reps, especially with Andre and pick and roll,” he said. “Everybody knows we run a heavy dosage of it. Would’ve been great to get our timing, but we’ve been playing for 2½ years and I think we won’t be too rusty once we get in a game. I think us two have great chemistry. Once we get out there and start playing, we’ll adjust pretty easily.”