Pistons (8-7, 4-5 road) vs. Thunder (10-6, 7-3 home)
TV: FS Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 7:00 PM CST
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 110.3 (3rd), Pistons – 101.6 (24th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 104.3 (17th), Nets – 101.0 (7th)
I’ve only seen opposing players get boo’ed at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Former players are usually given an appreciative applause before the boos start coming down. We saw that with James Harden, who didn’t get booed until he got into an altercation with then back-up center Hasheem Thabeet. We recently saw that with Kendrick Perkins, who was given a standing ovation when his face was shown on the jumbotron, even though he wasn’t active due to injury. But the amount of boos Reggie Jackson will be receiving tonight will be rivaled only by the boos that are reserved for opposing players that try to purposely hurt Thunder players (aka only Patrick Beverly).
If you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, here is a quick summary of the Thunder/Reggie Jackson breakup. At the end of the season two years ago, Jackson expressed his desire to be a starter in the league, while indirectly expressing that he would like to be a starting point guard, not necessarily a shooting guard. The Thunder reportedly offered Jackson a 4 year/$48-52 extension two offseasons ago, which Jackson promptly declined, instead taking his chances in restricted free agency. When the Thunder needed Jackson the most last season, especially when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were out with injury, he performed, averaging 19.5 points, 7.5 assists, and 5.3 rebounds in the month of November. After November, though, when Westbrook, and eventually Durant returned, Jackson went back to his normal 6th man role and his production plummeted. From December to the trading deadline in February, Jackson averaged 10.2 points, 3.1 assists, and 3.6 rebounds.
It wasn’t just Jackson’s production that decreased. His demeanor completely changed. His standing on the team changed. No longer was he a part of the core of Durant, Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka. The team saw the writing on the wall and acquired Dion Waiters from Cleveland in January. Westbrook and Durant got to the point where they essentially exiled Jackson. In the end, Jackson was traded to the Detroit Pistons in a combo deal that saw the Thunder also trade team leader Kendrick Perkins to the Utah Jazz. The final salvo was a tweet from Reggie Jackson after he got traded that read, “Crying tears of joy #godisgreat”.
Here’s the thing, though. Jackson was probably right. While I can’t respect the means with which he got to his end, I do understand why he did it. Like James Harden before him, Jackson was too good to stay in the role the Thunder had him relegated to. He’s currently averaging 19 points and 6 assists and looks like he’ll be an All-Star point guard for the Eastern Conference. He got himself a max contract and looks like he’s a vital cog on a young, up and coming team.The Opponent
The Pistons come into the game with a 8-7 record. After starting the season 5-1, they’ve gone to lose 6 of their next 9. Their struggles have come on the offensive end of the floor where they have failed to score over 100 points in those last 9 games. The only consistent offensive threats for the Pistons have been Jackson and center Andre Drummond. Shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been inconsistent from the perimeter, shooting only 32% from deep. Ersan Ilyasova has shot better (45.5%), but has provided little else while on the floor. Marcus Morris has been the better Morris twin this season and has been a good pick-up for the Pistons. Other than rookie Stanley Johnson, the Piston’s bench is one of the worser ones in the league.3 Big Things
The sexy match-up will be Russell Westbrook vs. Reggie Jackson. But the more important match-up will likely be Andre Drummond vs. the Thunder big men. Drummond has been a monster on the boards, averaging 17.8 rebounds per game (nearly 6 of those on the offensive end). The only problem is that nobody else on the team averages more than 6.5. If the Thunder can contain Drummond to less than 13 rebounds, they should be able to win the battle of the boards.
The Pistons’ bench averages an anemic 21.8 pointers per game. Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter together average more than the entire Pistons team. The second team has done better in the last 4 games, and hopefully, that trend continues in this one.
3. Russell Westbrook vs. Reggie Jackson
Westbrook was extremely vocal about his displeasure for how Jackson was acting in the final few weeks of his tenure in Oklahoma City. For as much as he is given the selfish tag, he is one of the more team-oriented players I’ve ever observed. He is completely in tune with what the team is doing in terms of moves, and has learned from the School of Perkins that “you are either with us or against us.” This is the opportunity Jackson has been looking for. To run his own team and get out on his own. Well, he got his wish. Let’s see if he will regret it for one game.
4. Never Forget