AUBURN HILLS – Reggie Jackson had a front-row seat when the Detroit Pistons introduced Avery Bradley at a press conference last month.
Jackson made a special trip from Los Angeles just to meet his new backcourt mate.
“I got to see my man, got to let him know I’m all in with him,” Jackson said. “Let’s get this ball rolling once we get back from summer and let’s take care of each other and let’s hold each other accountable and let’s be the best we can be. I definitely wanted him to see my face and let him know important he is to the team and how important he is to me.”
It’s a sentiment other Pistons share about their new teammate. Bradley is respected not only for being one of the best two-way guards in the NBA but also as a team leader.
“We’re going to try to tear up the league,” Jackson said. “He’s been one tough gun to play against and now I look forward to playing with him.”
If the Pistons are to rebound from their 37-45 season and return to the playoffs, they’ll need a healthy Jackson returning to his form of 2015-16, when he led the team in points (18.8) and assists (6.2) per game.
The Pistons, in their most significant off-season move on July 7, acquired Bradley from the Boston Celtics for Marcus Morris while renouncing the rights to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who later signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Jackson said Bradley is going to help “elevate” his game.
“I expect him to hold me accountable,” Jackson said. “Try to get the best out of him and I expect him to try to get the best out of me. Especially being around the same age, it’s going to be fun to lead this team and continue to battle and try to get better every day in practice and (in games).”
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy accomplished one of his goals to add more ball-handers with the acquisitions of Bradley and free-agent Langston Galloway.
“It’ll be good to get attacking when you don’t necessarily have a shot,” Jackson said. “I’ll be a beneficiary. I get to play a little one-on-one, attack. I don’t doubt he loves to shoot. He may not have come in as the most respected shooter but he’s worked extremely hard on his game for him to be where he is now after seven seasons. He’s not afraid to put it up. He’s only going to get better and it’s only going to help guys like myself.”
Jackson first saw Bradley’s competitiveness and defensive tenacity when they played an AAU game in Colorado as youths. They have played against each other for six NBA seasons.
“He comes out and wants to be great defensively and has such a respect for the game that he doesn’t let you breathe,” Jackson said. “In practice, I’m sure we’re going to have some good battles. It’s going to be fun to battle with him. He just competes. He’s not scared of anybody. He’s going to leave everything on the court. Detroit, I think we should be happy.
“It’s unfortunate we lose Marcus, not bringing KCP back, but to add a guy like Avery Bradley to your roster, you’re winning. He’s going to do everything right off the court, on the court.”
Bradley has improved in each of his seven NBA seasons. He averaged career highs in points (16.3), rebounds (6.1) and assists (2.2) in 2016-17.
“Sometimes you might feel comfortable enough to go out there and say ‘I did this role last year, I can do the same thing,’ ” Bradley said. “But I always wanted more for myself. I think it comes from my wife. She always tells me, ‘Avery, never settle. Make sure you’re always working on your game, improving every single year.’ So, I take that to heart and that’s what I try to do. Every summer I try to add one thing, go out there and show the world I’m improving every single year.”
What is Bradley planning on working this off-season?
“I guess we’ll have to wait and see,” he said.