My name is Jonas /I’m carrying the wheel/ Thanks for all you’ve shown us/ This is how we feel
Jonas Jerebko! What is to become of you, dear sweet Swede? What is your fate in this revamped Detroit Pistons roster? Have you become more collateral damage in the new Tom Gores endorsed high profile team? Was your rookie year a complete illusion or have you simply not been given the chance to succeed by coaches who were quite frankly (no pun intended), unmitigated failures during their respective tenures in Detroit? My cautious answer to the last question is “a little of column A and a little of column B.”
Jonas, at his best, combined a stretch four’s shooting prowess (sort of!) with the boundless hustle of an “energy guy” (definitely!). He easily outperformed his fellow draft picks, Austin Daye and DeJuan Summers, and earned the admiration of Pistons fans for his gutsy play. Unfortunately, Jonas suffered the ultimate sophomore slump, missing his entire second season to injury. Since then he’s been jerked around, seen his production and efficiency begin a slow but very steady decline as he should be entering his prime. With a revamped big-man rotation that includes centerpieces in Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, and Josh Smith as well an ancillary parts in the bigger and more athletic Tony Mitchell and the better three-point shooter Charlie Villanueva, where does that leave the Big Swede?
Not at small forward. Not at center, obviously. 12th man? Towel boy? Unlikely hero during critical playoff game? I can’t seem to stop asking hypothetical questions when Jonas Jerebko is discussed. He’s an enigma, one half Swedish Hammer one half Space Cadet. The eyeball test declares that Jonas makes the team better. And then he ruins that by getting pushed around by bigger men or letting quicker smaller men blow by him. Classic tweener problems, but problems that force us to consider scenarios to make use of what he can do. Jonas Jerebko is far from useless. I hate to sound like his dad or something, but he can do some stuff. There have been tiny flashes (literally tiny) of a post-game, and he’s of course an excellent hustling garbage man, but Jonas will never be anything more than the fourth big man of the depth chart if he doesn’t upgrade his most marketable talent to “garbage man”.
Assuming Charlie V. will beat the fates once again and remain a Piston this year then Jonas has simply got to beat him at his own game and start hitting those three point shots. Easier said than done, especially with Kyle Singler and Luigi Datome on the roster, both superior shooters to Jonas and can both pay the small ball four, and are less absentminded than Charlie V. Sometimes you have a wealth of talent and just have no place to put it. Jonas overachieved during his rookie year and we romanticize his place with the Pistons because of it. He gave everything he had at a time when Pistons fans were slowly growing used to the Malaise at the Palace, the slow burn of the complete collapse of the Second Pistons Dynasty. Even the fact that I refer to him as “Jonas” is telling. In a world of moving pieces and “assets” and cap space, certain dudes endear themselves to you in strange ways, ways that almost never are boxscore obvious. Jonas is one of these dudes. His quality is obvious but he also seems on the verge of fringe NBA oblivion. These are the guys you want to succeed. The guys you want to win out. The league can keep its superstars. Give me an honorable tenth man.
Pardon the hideous cliche, but the NBA is a dog eat dog world and the dogs are numerous and they are hungry and they will piss all over the furniture whenever it gives them an advantage. There’s always someone better than you (unless your name is LeBron James) and for the vast majority of players, there are always several guys better than you and often multiple guys better than you on your own team and at your own position. Athletes seem to handle these crushing truths better than laymen, but it still can’t be easy knowing you are a commodity in service to both capital and the altar of Larry O’Brien Trophy Collecting.
The Pistons aren’t a lottery team anymore, at least, that’s the mandate from on high. With the talent they’ve added in the offseason, anything less than the 7th seed is going to feel like a major letdown. I fear for the minutes distribution of players like Jonas Jerebko on a team that actually has something to play for. There are stronger more athletic big men and faster swingmen with better jumpshots. It can’t feel good being the odd man out, especially when you’ve been such a good solider up to this point. But that’s the business, right? If Jonas can bulk up to the point where he’s not pushed around in the post, increase his 3pt field goal percentage, all the while maintaining his hustle and motor, he’ll be able find some minutes. Hopefully with the Detroit Pistons and not as a Charlotte Bobcat after some draft pick swap that lands us Jannero Pargo.