The Detroit Pistons’ new point guard won’t be on the court when the regular season starts. Brandon Jennings, according to the Detroit News, will be out for three weeks because of an impacted wisdom tooth and a fracture of the jaw at the base of the tooth.
That wipes out the remaining three preseason games as well as—at a minimum—the first three games on the regular-season slate. Jennings is scheduled to be re-evaluated in three weeks and if all goes well, he would be on target to return to the lineup Nov. 5 against the Indiana Pacers.
Jennings played 23 minutes in Detroit preseason opener against Maccabi Haifa on Oct. 8, but hasn’t played since, missing four straight games.
It’s another blow to the reconfigured backcourt for the Pistons. Rodney Stuckey could be back by opening night after having surgery to repair the broken tip of his right thumb after he shut it in a car door last week.
That leaves a dearth of guards and it increases the chances that second-round pick Peyton Siva could stick on the roster, at least early on.
As it stands, Will Bynum and Chauncey Billups would be the most likely tandem to start Oct. 30 against the Washington Wizards. The duo started in the backcourt Thursday night in a 96-84 road loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bynum had 12 points and three assists in 30 minutes while Billups scored 10 points and handed out four assists in 28 minutes after not playing the previous three games.
First-round pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is finding his transition to NBA life difficult, at least in terms of doing what he did best at the University of Georgia—score the basketball. Caldwell-Pope is averaging nine points per game through five preseason games, but he’s doing it extremely inefficiently. KCP is just 14-for-55 (25.5 percent) from the floor and just 4-for-21 (19 percent) from 3-point land. He does have 28 rebounds and seven steals.
Of course, it’s not just KCP who is having trouble finding the rim; he’s just the worst offender. Greg Monroe is just 19-for-54 (35.2 percent) in five preseason starts and Jonas Jerebko is 11-for-28 (39.3 percent) in four games.
Josh Harrellson, meanwhile, may be shooting his way off the roster—he’s just 4-for-14 in the preseason and did not play Thursday night, a bad sign for a guy fighting for a spot on the club.
Jennings isn’t a premier point guard by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s a key figure in Detroit’s hopes to return to the playoffs after a four-year absence.
Perhaps the worst factor of all in Jennings’ injury is the timing of it. He loses valuable minutes to get acclimated to playing with his new teammates—Andre Drummond and Monroe as well as fellow newcomer Josh Smith.
Coach Maurice Cheeks has stressed the importance of Jennings in the process of getting the new-look frontcourt to come together. Of that group, only Monroe was a starter last season.
If Billups is going to have to play expanded minutes, it’s best to do it early, while he’s still got fresh legs. The 37-year-old former NBA Finals MVP has been allowed to set his own workload during training camp, given his age and experience.