Pre-Game Jitters: Stephen Jackson’s Return

Stephen Jackson is returning to the Oracle with the Charlotte Bobcats.  No doubt the Warriors faithful will be letting him have it.  But I would not boo him myself if I were at this game.  I have a very strong admiration for Jackson as a basketball player, that was not diminished by the actions he took to separate himself from the Warriors.    

Stephen Jackson is a winner. He was a World Champion with the San Antonio Spurs. He was instrumental in one of the greatest playoff upsets in history, completely humiliating the league MVP with his suffocating defense as the We Believe Warriors sent Mark Cuban, The Squeaky General and the number one seed in the league back to Dallas with sore bottoms.  And now, as exactly ONE NBA blogger predicted, he has single-handedly grabbed the Charlotte Bobcats by the scruff of their necks and dragged them into the playoffs.

A winner.  That is the single best word you can use to describe Stephen Jackson as a basketball player.  Why?  Because his game defies statistical analysis.  That shooting percentage!  Those turnovers!  Stat freaks across the NBA have delighted in deriding Jackson’s game.  Prominent snake-oil salesman John Hollinger predicted that the Bobcats would miss the playoffs, and net one less win by trading for Jackson.  Before, of course, it became evident to all of his readers that the opposite was true, causing him to abruptly install the Bobcats as his five seed in the East.

Jackson is a winner.  He will give you 45 minutes of defense against the other team’s best player, whether that player is Dirk Nowitzki, Lebron James or Chris Paul.  He will get his teammates involved on the offensive end.  He will take and make the big shot at the end of the game.  He will light a fire in his teammates, as Anthony Morrow noted:

He’s a matchup problem. He’s going to defend the best player. He’s a fiery player. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. That kind of attitude rubs off on other guys, and I think it’s rubbing off on those guys.

He is, in the words of Tim Duncan “the ultimate teammate.”  He was, in the words of Mike Brown, “the most talented player” on that Spurs championship team. He was, according to Baron Davis, “the leader” of the We Believe team, and its “heart and soul.”  He is, according to Larry Bird, the toughest player he’s ever seen when it comes to playing through injuries.  He is, in the words of Don Nelson, a “heck of a basketball player,” a player who “makes everyone around him better.”  He is, in the words of Larry Brown, “an elite player. He’s as bright as anyone I’ve coached.”

Try sticking that in your pipe and smoking it, stat freaks.  Try drawing up a stat that can measure Stephen Jackson’s heart. Stephen Jackson is a winner. And if you can’t see that every minute that he’s on a basketball court, then there is something very wrong with the way you watch basketball.

Should Jackson’s actions in separating himself from the Warriors change a Warriors fan’s perception of him? I can’t answer that for everyone.  But for myself, the answer is not one bit.  I am very disappointed he’s no longer a Warrior, but I don’t blame him.

Stephen Jackson is a winner.  He doesn’t want to just play me-first basketball and earn a check like so many others in the league.  He wants to win.  He was tremendously disappointed by the breakup of the We Believe team, and in particular by the loss of Baron Davis.  But he continued to give everything he had to the team, while relying on the promises of the franchise that help was on the way.  Before last year’s draft, he was promised by Don Nelson and Larry Riley that the Warriors would add a veteran big man to solidify the front line. When Stephen Curry unexpectedly fell to the Warriors in the draft, those plans fell through.  And Stephen Jackson, who wanted to win, went ballistic.

I don’t blame Don Nelson for taking the best player in the draft.  But I also don’t blame Jackson for going ballistic.  The Stephen Curry draft represented the final straw in what he viewed as a betrayal of the veterans of We Believe. Jackson didn’t want to spend the most productive years of his career mentoring kids for a losing basketball team.  He wanted to win, and he didn’t believe the Warriors could win by relying on Brandon Wright and Anthony Randolph at power forward.  And you know what?

He was 100% right.

Good luck, Stephen Jackson. I look forward to watching you play tonight, against a player no one expects you to be able to guard, your friend Monta Ellis. I look forward to watching you play in a  hornet’s nest of hostility.

I look forward to watching  you lead the Charlotte Bobcats in the playoffs. And I will not be at all surprised should another great upset occur in the first round.

The Bobcats are -1.5 road favorites against the Warriors in this game.  I’m betting that Stephen Jackson, World Champion, gives his friend Don Nelson a hug before tip-off, and then proceeds to play his heart out.  Just as he’s done in every game he’s played since he entered the league.

16 Responses to Pre-Game Jitters: Stephen Jackson’s Return

  1. Jackson gave the fans some good years. Yes, he may be a winner and the Warriors management may be innept but it us, the fans, that got dumped. Who’s responsibible-Jackson 50% and management 50%. Who won after the trade, Jackson. We lost..again. We have every right to extend the full rath of geers, taunts and heckling upon the captain who jumped ship.

  2. My problem is how Jackson went ballistic in public, again. He got his way, right after he had signed a lucrative new contract. The writing was already on the wall in terms of the We Believe team being dismantled when he signed his contract, but I think the dollar signs just blinded him. Let’s just say that Jackson is a passionate individual and leave it at that.

    He’s the ultimate 2-year guy. The team that has him loves him for two years and then there’s a rough 3rd year when he starts getting antsy and then it see ya later in year 4. It’s just how he works.

  3. PDub is right. He’s the guy you bring into a team to get them over the hump but not the guy you build around. Frankly, with what we had at the time, it did make sense to move him but we got nothin in return. Like I said it was 50/50 Jax was wrong the way he went about it and Riley took too little in exchange. Finally, character counts and he has never taken responsibility for anything, it’s always someone or something else. Good player with no morals (but that’s half the NBA).

  4. Wow, felty. You’ve taken a bold stance here! I don’t disagree, except for one thing. He DIDN’T play his heart out for this team THIS season. As a matter of fact, it looked like he was pulling a Harrington and forcing the Warriors to trade him. Which is a crying shame because they netted Radmanovich (Radmanovich? Radmanovich? PLAYOFFS!?) which is chump change on the dollar. A major screw-up by the front office all around. I liked the guy and hoped his attitude would come around, but it didn’t.

  5. Great post, Feltbot. You don’t have to love a player to respect him. Consensus was that Charlotte would continue going nowhere after the trade. Consensus was also that Larry Brown was washed up. And that the two wouldn’t get along. I’d be curious to learn about Brown/Jackson relationship.

    And I have to wonder what’s going on in Monta’s head. He had the same complaint, but he’s done everything “right” — kept quiet, played hard, etc. Where has it gotten him?

  6. Jackson can kiss my a$$. Don’t take the money next time you want to cry when things don’t look the wya you want it to. Btw, THANK YOU Robert Rowell for that signing. Is it me or would we better have been served to give Baron his contract. You know Baron the only guy who made the W’s significant.

  7. Nice post Felty, how quicly people forget what he did for our team. I was ready for him to go, but only because he was clearly not into it and was becoming a distraction. When it came to ball though, his game was always sweet. The perfect blend of scorer and facilitator. His biggest fault? Not wanting to be a loser. He saw the writing on the wall with the dubs and he jumped ship. Though I wish he hadn’t done that, I can’t fault a man for not taking losing lightly. I will be there tonite and I wil boo him, but I suspect he would be disappointed if we didn’t.

    GO DUBS

  8. I’ve always respected SJ as a player. I no longer respect him as a professional, though. He signed a contract, but he didn’t honor it.

    In spite of all the approbation being thrown at Cohan, I’m sure most people realize that he doesn’t want to lose. We’re usually well over the salary cap as a team, though not near the top. Of course, the same could be said of Jackson wrt the MLE – but he’s getting paid, not paying. I

  9. didn’t see Jackson reaching into his pocket to add talent to the team.

  10. For decades I only knew Kermit Washington for his deconstruction of Rudy Tomjanovich’s face. But I just finished reading David Halberstam’s “The Breaks of the Game” — great book — and discovered he was a sensitive man, quite possibly a good man, and a committed pro. In short, don’t judge a player until you know him, the whole picture.

    Again, nicely done, Feltbot. Jackson, of course, isn’t Washington. Jackson’s greatest asset may also be his greatest liability, his single-mindedness (read bullheaded). If he commits himself to winning, he plays to win. If he decides something won’t work, it’s probably impossible to get him to see otherwise.

    While I’ve got the Halberstam out and thinking of our much beloved coach:

    “. . . a professional coach gained what authority he could by exercise of his intelligence, his subtlety, his very being. He was on his own and [Jack] Ramsay believed as an article of faith that no loyalty, either from those above who employed you, or those below who played for you, could be expected. . . . Therefore a coach must learn that loyalty was valueless, and might even work against him. . . . For this reason Ramsay rationed his emotions in his personal relations with his players.”

    In such an environment, it’s amazing Nelson has been able to hold his own all these years. Respect here.

    I still wish he had started Tolliver instead of Watson Wed., putting more beef up front.

    Halberstam had a wonderful feel for personalities and the dynamics of a situation. He also had access no one else could get. And he probably had a talent for getting people to say things they might not tell anyone else. I wish he were around today and could take on the Warriors.

  11. Jackson is a winner in basketball. Although he’s also kind of psychotic out of basketball. During the whole drama with him wanting out, I was pretty annoyed with his actions, because it was completely disrupting the team. I wouldn’t boo him. The day after he got traded, I barely cared that he was gone. I’m not even bitter that the Bobcats are now playing much better with him on the team. All I feel about Jackson is indifference, and good riddance!

  12. Oh and to “ImissBaron” – I’d have to completely agree with you. Baron I would never boo (same with JRich). Those two gave their hearts and souls for the Warriors. I don’t understand all this love-affair going on with some Warrior fans and “I ain’t no cap’n” Jackson. The guy quit on the team! He took the money then demanded a trade, throwing his coach and teammates under the bus, as he tried to force the trade. I would love for either Baron or JRich to become a Warrior again … Jackson, ehh, not so much. He can stay wherever he is playing at.

  13. Jackson got the best of the W’s tonight, kinda made me sad. I guess we can seek soltice in knowing at least Jackson did not choke Nellie. Btw John, I believe Jrich said he would like to comeback when his uber contract is finished. As for the game, I’m sort of getting sick of watching the second half of our games. Are we the only team not making second half adjustments game in and game out?

  14. IMiss–

    Re: second half. Keith Smart’s post-game interview was odd and maybe telling.

  15. We part company on this one, Felty. Stephen Jackson is a disloyal, unprofessional, screwed-up, immature headcase. If you want him on your team, fine. He’s not ever gonna be on mine.

  16. ‘Tis bitter cold/And I am sick at heart.

    –Hamlet

    Wow, that game was painful. Worse, it was boring. It’s the excitement the team shows that keeps me coming back, and when they lose that I don’t know what’s left. Defense, rebounding, fatigue, injuries, etc. — but I want to argue that the Bobcats had a better team with everyone involved. Jackson didn’t have to carry the team, but rather only find his openings. We relied on two players — Curry’s points don’t count, as he scored about a half of them after the game was decided.

    OK, I’ve given respect to Nelson. But I really wonder what is going on. (Put questions marks after each sentence that follows — I don’t know what I’m talking about.)

    First half OK, though they slipped the last few minutes. Second half they went into what seems to be the plan, spread the offense, let Monta and Maggette take over. One shot and done, one and done, one and done, as they ratcheted themselves gradually into a deep hole. Maggette or Monta gets the ball, drives or shoots, except on the few occasions they kick the ball out for the three point shot (but only once or twice to Curry) by guys who don’t shoot that well. From the arc, Vlad, the D-leaguers, George, and Watson were 1 of 10. Monta was 0 of 5 himself. That’s 15 possessions.

    The plan is utterly predictable, and Charlotte was usually ready.

    It puts a load on Monta and Maggette, puts them in a position where they have to force the action, making it hard for them and the team to get into a rhythm.

    It takes the other players out of offensive rebounding range.

    It doesn’t place the other players in a spot where they might be more effective on offense.

    Why not at least add a third offensive threat, who in this case is Curry, pass to him, set some screens, etc.? He is currently the best three point shooter on the team. And maybe keep trying to get the bigs involved? And keep moving the ball?

    It is especially hard for me to watch Curry standing in the wings. They need energy, and he is a high energy player. I watched many of the Davidson games, and he was always in constant motion, moving through screens, setting screens, running back door — anything to keep the game moving and open things up.

    Keith Smart’s interview was sobering and maybe telling. He said they were holding Curry back, getting him to play point. But he’s not playing point, he’s bringing the ball up and passing to Maggette or Monta, then standing outside the action.

    Feltbot or somebody: tell me where I’m wrong. Or at least cheer me up.

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