Isiah Thomas: Jackson and Rose will be a “dynamite” backcourt

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Trent Balley, Detroit Sports Columnist

EAST LANSING, Mich. – NBA Hall-of-Famer Isiah Thomas is no stranger to what it takes to play a winning brand of basketball. The greatest Detroit Piston of all time, Thomas once was the driving force behind two NBA championship teams as well as an NCAA tournament win with the Indiana Hoosiers prior to being a professional.

Looking at the Pistons’ current backcourt status, there’s a handful of really solid players. The point guard position, however, may be the most powerful on the team. The veteran tandem of Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose has plenty of appeal, and Thomas believes it will work beautifully.

“I think they’re going to be dynamite in the backcourt,” Thomas said. “When you look at their skill level, their athleticism, and right now their WANT to… they want to be a good backcourt and they want to play together.”

Rose himself had some words about the “want” that Thomas spoke of.

“I want to play, I don’t want to sit out,” Rose said bluntly. “I appreciate the game. I got to year 12 by fighting and clawing my way to get where I’m at. My appreciation for the game is very high right now.”

Jackson and Rose had very similar seasons in 2018-19 from a statistical standpoint. Jackson averaged 15.4 points and 4.2 assists for the Pistons, while Rose averaged 18 points and 4.3 assists for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The glaring difference in the point guards’ production a season ago is the role in which they did it in. Both played north of 27 minutes per game, but Jackson did so starting in all 82 games, while Rose only appeared in 51 games and started 13 of them. 

The way things look now, head coach Dwane Casey is expected to start Jackson at point guard and save Rose’s offensive production for a lift with the second unit. And Rose is more than okay with it.

“I’m past the stats. I’m not here to step on anybody’s toes, I’m not here to take anybody’s job,” Rose said. “I’m here just to win.”

We shouldn’t rule out the possibility of Jackson and Rose getting minutes on the court together, however. Thomas was vocal about his faith in their compatibility.

“I think their skills complement each other,” Thomas said. “They’re both good defenders. They’re both extremely competitive. They have a high level of respect for each other, so they definitely can play together.”

Regardless of who’s in the backcourt, the identity of this Pistons team is its frontcourt. Superstar power forward Blake Griffin averaged a career-high 24.5 points per game and led the team with 5.4 assists. Center Andre Drummond averaged 15.6 rebounds per game, good enough for his third rebounding title in four years.

Thomas believes that the addition of Rose in the offseason, along with an established Jackson, will help bring Griffin and Drummond to new heights, further elevating the team as well.

“If Blake [Griffin] and [Andre] Drummond can get a solid, really good backcourt, this Pistons team, I think, can make a lot of noise,” Thomas said. “Derrick’s going to be a great addition for that.”

Jackson, Rose and the Pistons open the preseason on Oct. 7 when they will play host to the Orlando Magic. Perhaps we’ll see the backcourt production start to take shape.

Contact Trent Balley at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @tbal91.