Gregg Popovich and Stephen Jackson rank teammates (Getty Images)
Stephen Jackson flew down to Miami on Tuesday, which is kind of strange because the San Antonio Spurs did the same thing; and also not kind of strange because Miami is just the sort of place that Stephen Jackson would go to pretend that he doesn’t care that the Spurs cut him just before the playoffs two months ago. Jackson attempted to give off that indication to the San Antonio Express-News’ Buck Harvey, telling the scribe that he doesn’t regret his dismissal from the team on the eve of what could have been the second Finals appearance of Jackson’s career.
Why? “Got my money.”
A year ago Jackson announced, in so many words, Popovich was the only coach who could handle him. Tuesday he said he refused this season to play Popovich's “mind games.”
Jackson insists Popovich wanted him to admit Green and Ginobili were better. More than likely, Popovich simply told Jackson they were better. That's why they were playing instead of him.
Pride wouldn't let Jackson accept that, and he admitted as much Tuesday. After showing the initial flash of anger when talking about Popovich, he later said Popovich knows him well, and that the release “was best for me so I wouldn't go crazy.”
Certainly the best for both sides. At least, that’s what the Spurs will tell you, as their thoughts were revealed in their actions – releasing Jackson just before a postseason run in an “addition by subtraction” move.
Jackson swears this is the best move for his side as well. And while vacationing in Miami (and Jamaica, releasing Instagram photos online of his trips co-incidentally during Spurs games, according to Harvey) and getting paid the full amount of his $10.6 million contract this year would be pretty fun, wouldn’t Jackson prefer to earn that money while working toward a title with Tim Duncan and company?
Jackson won’t cop to that. He was never a company man, on a franchise made famous for being full of company men.
“He's a good-hearted guy,” a teammate said then. “And when he was angry, it wasn't because he was demanding the ball or anything like that. But he was so sensitive and emotional that it was difficult to coach, and it was tough for a teammate, too. The countless pouting sessions began to drag on everyone.”
Which is why he’s not worth it. Stephen Jackson played good defense and shot the ball very well in what was ultimately a losing effort against the Oklahoma City Thunder last season. His “playoff breakthrough” in 2003 saw him turn the ball over 26 times in the six-game 2003 NBA Finals. For a guy that lauds himself as a clutch performer, he shot 41 percent during that postseason turn and under 40 percent in his next four playoff appearances. He’s 35, which is a number just two digits below the 37 percent mark from the field he’s shot from the field over the last two seasons. He’s not better than Danny Green, or Manu Ginobili.
Which means he can’t be dragging the team down by insisting that he’s a starter-level swingman. Which is why the Spurs signed a player to fill his shoes in Tracy McGrady, a player who turned in a few near-MVP seasons a decade ago, and has some real pride issues to work through as he racks up just 17 minutes spread out over four games in San Antonio’s 14-game postseason run thus far. It would be a real stretch, a huge stretch, to claim that Stephen Jackson was helping the San Antonio Spurs on the court this year, so why let the guy hurt you in the locker room?
All of that’s behind him, according to Jackson, because he’s cool with the way things turned out. And we believe him. Sure we do.
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