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Rumor: Pistons fear Reggie Jackson will miss extended time to begin season, seeking point guard

Cleveland Cavaliers v Detroit Pistons Game Four

AUBURN HILLS, MI - APRIL 24: Reggie Jackson #1 of the Detroit Pistons tries to get around the first quarter defense of Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers in game four of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Palace of Auburn Hills on April 24, 2016 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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The Pistons have trended upward since hiring Stan Van Gundy, and they hoped to ride the Reggie Jackson-Andre Drummond combination to ascend further.

But Jackson – who had been limited in practice due to longstanding knee issues – might not be available for a while.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Jackson has been essential to Detroit’s offense, which features minimal playmaking from the wings. If Jackson can’t go, Ish Smith steps into that overly burdened role.

After signing Smith this summer to back up Jackson, Van Gundy touted Smith’s ability to handle starter’s minutes with the 76ers. But Smith didn’t perform as well in Philadelphia as the narrative suggests, and he’s a clear downgrade from Jackson.

More troubling for the Pistons is what happens when Smith rests. As large as the drop is from Jackson to Smith, it’s even larger from Smith to Lorenzo Brown or Ray McCallum – who are competing for the 15th regular-season roster spot and third-point-guard duties. Most likely, Detroit would try to find an upgrade over those two, not over Smith.

The free-agent market for point guards has dried up unless Mario Chalmers is healthy. A small trade – maybe involving Reggie Bullock, Darrun Hilliard or Aron Baynes – could work.

The biggest hope must be Jackson returning as quickly as possible. The 26-year-old has been relatively healthy, playing 80, 77 and 79 games the last three years.

But if he’s sidelined for a lengthy period, that could cost the Pistons home-court advantage in the first round or even a playoff berth entirely. There’s little margin for error in the 4-10 range of the Eastern Conference.