AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Less than a month ago, Stan Van Gundy said bringing back point guard Reggie Jackson was his top offseason priority.
So it made sense that, with a long-term deal done, the Detroit Pistons introduced Jackson in a formal news conference in the west atrium of the Palace — where the team holds many of its biggest announcements these days.
“It was a big day for us last year when we made the trade for Reggie, but now to get him locked up for the long term is even bigger for us,” said Van Gundy, Detroit’s coach and team president. “We look at Reggie as a big part of our foundation that we’re trying to build here.”
Jackson was a restricted free agent, and this deal — worth a reported $80 million over five years — keeps him with Detroit after the Pistons traded for him in the middle of last season. The agreement came together a while ago — Van Gundy had talked about Jackson’s return after a news conference about a different topic over a week ago — but the team formally announced the signing Monday. For a franchise that has struggled to land top free agents lately, the trade for Jackson should play a big role in shaping the team’s future.
Jackson averaged 14.5 points per game last season, including 17.6 in 27 games after he was traded from Oklahoma City to the Pistons and became a full-time starter. The 25-year-old guard will be asked to team up with promising big man Andre Drummond and help Detroit try to return to the postseason, where the Pistons haven’t been since 2009.
“I’m definitely going to be more of a vocal leader, especially being here Day 1 in camp,” Jackson said.
He said Van Gundy stressed the importance of leadership from the beginning.
“That’s the first thing he actually talked to me about when I first got here,” Jackson said. “I still know I have to lead by example, and I have to be the first guy in and the last one out.”
Jackson was acquired in February, not long after Detroit point guard Brandon Jennings went down with a major Achilles’ tendon injury. Jennings was playing well before his injury, but the Pistons clearly viewed Jackson as more than a short-term replacement.
“If you look, over the course of the 27 games — so a third of the season — in comparing to the other point guards in the league, even if you just do it, looking at his numbers, (Jackson) was one of the top ten point guards in the league over that time,” Van Gundy said.
Van Gundy said Jennings’ recovery is progressing, but it’s still hard to say when he’ll be back to full strength.
“Still not at the point of running or anything — can start to do a little more activity all the time,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve still got about 14 weeks before the season’s open, so we’ve got a long time. We’re hoping that he will be back and ready to play, but it may not be at the beginning of the year.”
The Pistons also announced a deal Monday with second-round draft pick Darrun Hilliard, and they finalized their two-year, $5 million contract with forward Joel Anthony.
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