Indiana’s Stephen Jackson says that he’s learned his lesson. After a 30-day suspension, he’ll get a chance to prove himself.
Jackson returns to the Pacers for the first time since the Nov. 19 brawl that earned him the punishment as they visit the Boston Celtics.
Jackson was suspended for rushing into the stands with teammate Ron Artest and fighting with Detroit fans after one of them threw a cup at Artest’s face. Artest was suspended for the season, and Jermaine O’Neal received a 25-day suspension that was reduced to 15 by an arbitrator for his role in the melee.
Artest returned to practice on Monday, but CEO Donnie Walsh stresses that it was not a sign his suspension would be shortened.
“I have to watch it,” said Jackson. “Sometimes I get too fired up.
“I don’t want to hold my emotions back, but I want to be smart out there on the court. That’s what I have to do for my team to succeed is to be smarter on and off the court and try not to get sidetracked by all the other stuff that happens and just try to play basketball and help the team.”
Jackson is known as much for his competitive drive as for his skills on the court.
“He’s one of our top competitors,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Getting him back helps us on the floor, helps us with our depth chart, but it also gives us an extra spark, and that’s important, because he’s not only a good player, he’s a guy that has that competitive fire that every team needs.”
Jackson will start at small forward, Artest’s usual position. The Pacers, who have lost six of their last 10, are hoping he can bring them some consistency
Indiana, which faces Detroit on Thursday after facing Boston, has lost the back end of back-to-back games four straight times.
“I’m just going to go out and try to do everything on the court,” Jackson said. “I don’t limit my game. I can pass, I can shoot, I can defend, I can do it all so I’m going to try to do it all.”
The Pacers lost 95-93 to the Washington Wizards on Saturday in the second game of a back-to-back set. O’Neal scored 12 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter for Indiana, which lost on Antawn Jamison’s driving shot with 0.4 seconds left.
“The mark of a good team is being able to not only get one, but finish off both games,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately we haven’t been able to do that. We just have to find a way. Until we find a way, we’re just going to stay at the bottom of the pack.”
Jamaal Tinsley was in foul trouble and managed just 16 points on 6-of-17 shooting after scoring at least 28 in the previous three games. Austin Croshere missed the game with a sinus infection, and Bender did not play because of a sore right knee.
The Celtics beat the Charlotte Bobcats 97-92 Tuesday for their third win in five games. Paul Pierce scored 14 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter for Boston, which snapped a nine-game road losing streak.
Raef LaFrentz scored 12 points, and Ricky Davis added 11 for Boston, but Tony Allen managed just seven points on 2-for-4 shooting in his second start. He scored 20 points in 27 minutes Saturday in Atlanta.