AUBURN HILLS – The Pistons upgraded at shooting guard by any reasonable assessment in adding Avery Bradley, an elite defender who shot 39 percent from the 3-point line and averaged 16.2 points despite playing alongside ball-dominant Isaiah Thomas in Boston.
They’ve upgraded even more significantly at the other backcourt spot – without making any roster change.
“I’m great,” Reggie Jackson beamed after listening to his new backcourt partner, Bradley, express big expectations for his first season in a Pistons uniform. “I’m good. As soon as we get back to camp, I’m excited to play with my new teammate. I don’t think I can tell you how ecstatic I am.”
The expectation for an NBA player is that he’s going to get four or five new teammates even in a relatively quiet off-season. As tough as it is to sever ties with friends and respected teammates – and Jackson had genuine fondness for both Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris – the blow is softened when the newcomers are as familiar and highly regarded as Bradley.
Jackson ticked off a handful of reasons for his ecstasy at adding Bradley as a teammate, but the most visceral, perhaps, was this: “To get a guy like Avery Bradley, I hate playing him,” Jackson grinned.
And he’s been doing it for a decade, since both were on the AAU circuit trying to catch the eye of college recruiters. It was an easier chore back then for Bradley, a five-star recruit who could’ve gone anywhere.
“Avery won’t even remember we played when he was 16,” Jackson said. “Hated playing him then.”
The really big deal at one time on Bradley’s AAU team was his former high school teammate at Bellarmine Prep in the Seattle-Tacoma area, Abdul Gaddy.
Gaddy “was supposed to be the big craze,” Jackson said, “But I just remember Avery. There was something about him. He was so competitive. Doesn’t talk that much, even at that age. But he was a b—-, excuse my French.”
Jackson has altered his off-season routine, spending less time on the basketball court to reduce the wear-and-tear on his knees. The tendinosis that struck him a week into training camp last season cost him two months, the first 21 games of the regular season and the explosion that made him one of the NBA’s most dynamic pick-and-roll operators. He’s focused more on flexibility training to this point of the off-season and feels he’s back at his physical peak.
Van Gundy anticipates having the guy who dominated that first week of training camp, looking better than he’d ever looked.
“We think with these two guys,” Van Gundy said, “we’ve got one of the best backcourts in the league.”
The biggest factor in Jackson recapturing his 2015-16 form is the status of his right knee, but Van Gundy also expects he’ll be helped by having players like Bradley and newly signed Langston Galloway as secondary ballhandlers to provide more offensive options.
Jackson, too, sees the possibilities opened by eliminating the need for him to create scoring chances on every possession.
“It’ll be good. It’ll feel good to get attacking sometimes, when you don’t have a shot, for the ball to get reversed on the second side and know that a guy can create a shot, not only for himself but for the team, as well,” Jackson said. “I think I’ll be the beneficiary of it. I’ll get to play a little more one on one.”
Jackson flew from Los Angeles to attend Bradley’s introductory press conference and expects Pistons fans will become just as enthusiastic about the addition in short order.
“Detroit, I think we should be happy,” he said. “I know I woke up happy. Unfortunate we lose Marcus, unfortunate we can’t bring back KCP. But to add a guy like Avery Bradley to your roster, you’re winning.”