It's been less than three weeks since Stephen Jackson returned to action after losing nearly a month to a fractured right pinky. Now, the San Antonio Spurs small forward could find himself back on the shelf, thanks to an unfortunate foot-fall, a possibly ill-timed food order and the mayor of the City of New York.
The unusual play took place with just under four minutes left in the first quarter of San Antonio's Thursday night visit to Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Knicks, with the Spurs holding a 17-14 lead on their hosts. With Spurs point guard Tony Parker dribbling above the 3-point arc on the right wing, Jackson slid along the left sideline down toward the far corner. Parker dribbled left around a Tim Duncan screen that slowed New York defender Jason Kidd, and as teammate Carmelo Anthony stepped up to stop Parker's penetration, the San Antonio triggerman jumped and tossed a pass to a wide-open Jackson for a corner 3-point attempt. Jackson gathered and shot over the outstretched left arm of the hard-charging Amar'e Stoudemire, but his shot came up a bit short.
Stoudemire's left elbow made contact with Jackson's right side after the shot was in the air, but it didn't appear hard enough to knock Jackson off-kilter; rather, the Spurs swingman just took a simple step backward, and then suddenly crumpled to the deck. When the Knicks headed up the floor in search of a basket, they did so with a 5-on-4 advantage, as Jackson stayed down behind the play. New York took advantage of their power play, with center Tyson Chandler rebounding Stoudemire's missed top-of-the-key jumper and kicking out to Anthony for a wide-open right-corner 3 that tied the game at 17.
After the bucket, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called a 20-second timeout at the 2:57 mark of the opening quarter so that Jackson could exit the game. The 13-year veteran hobbled off the floor and back to the Spurs' locker room, and did not return.
Jackson finished scoreless, having missed both of his field-goal attempts in 2 minutes, 50 seconds of playing time. He was unavailable for comment after the game, according to Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press.
In and of itself, a player turning an ankle by stepping on someone sitting courtside isn't that weird — we've seen countless plays like that over the years, specifically along the baseline, where network television camera operators have become frequent landing spots for airborne ballplayers (and, subsequently, targets for fan and writer derision when said players come up lame). The rare element of this particular play, though, was captured by the Spurs' FOX Sports Southwest broadcast team, who noticed that as Jackson took his step backward after absorbing Stoudemire's contact, his right foot stepped on, of all things, a courtside waitress who was crouching down along the boundary, which led to the twisted right ankle that knocked him out of the game.
The Spurs broadcasters reported that the waitress was serving New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was seated directly behind where Jackson launched his shot. While I certainly wouldn't wish any injury, let alone such a weird one, on any player, let alone one I love as much as Cap'n Jack, one aspect of this unfortunate situation worth celebrating is that it resulted in the following sentence appearing in an Associated Press story: "It was unclear if the waitress was serving Bloomberg, who was seen eating a box of popcorn shortly after the play." I honestly never thought I'd read anything like that in relationship to Stephen Jackson; shame on me for being so closed-minded.
The Knicks went on to beat the Spurs, 100-83, snapping San Antonio's seven-game winning streak behind a balanced scoring effort and a long-range barrage that saw New York finish 12 for 27 (44.4 percent) from 3-point land. Anthony led the way with 23 points, eight rebounds and three assists in 36 minutes, while sixth man J.R. Smith chipped in 20 points, five rebounds, three assists and one monster dunk off the Knicks bench.
San Antonio hung in throughout the first half, but appeared to be sluggish after intermission while playing their fourth game in five nights, finishing with an unseemly 36.4 percent mark from the field and going just 9 for 34 from long range. Only three Spurs scored in double-figures, led by reserve guard Gary Neal's 12 points.
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