When the ferocity of the final minutes of the NBA trade deadline were unfolding, Reggie Jackson had been fast asleep in his Oklahoma City bedroom. Brooklyn had turned to Detroit, Jackson had been awakened and soon his brother Travis handed him a cell phone with Stan Van Gundy on the line.
Jackson, 24, had been waiting for these words, for an NBA coach to tell him that he wanted to turn his team over to him, that he had watched him closely, studied his character and believed he could construct a contender around his talents.
"You're my point guard," the president and coach of the Pistons said, and soon they hung up, and Reggie Jackson crumpled and started to sob. He couldn't stop. He cried and cried and cried. And, now, 24 hours later, Jackson was on the phone with a reporter, and it was happening again.
Reggie Jackson was crying again, because life seldom connects such angst and triumph in such a compressed period of time. One day, he's under siege in Oklahoma City. And the next, he was suddenly embraced in Auburn Hills. This had been so much to process, so fast, and Jackson was still coming to grips with it all Friday afternoon.
"I've always dreamed about this, and I was never sure it would happen," Jackson told Yahoo Sports. "Stan believes in me, in the leader that I can be. He believes in the player that I can be, and I've always imagined having a coach like this, an opportunity like this, in the NBA."
The Oklahoma City Thunder traded Jackson to the Pistons on Thursday, and there comes a moment of truth for him now. Much of his emotion – the tears, the rawness – comes from the departure in Oklahoma City as much as the arrival in Auburn Hills.
It was an acrimonious season, a nasty ending and a parting that left Jackson determined to reclaim his good name. He always wanted to be an NBA starter, and turned down $12 million a year in Oklahoma City to prove that on the restricted free agent market this summer.
"I wasn't always perfect, nor was the situation, but I became the brunt of the blame there," Jackson said. "Everything bad that happened, I was the scapegoat. I'm taking all this blame, and I'm wondering: 'How am I supposed to change it all here, make an impact, in eight minutes a game?' Everybody is jumping down my neck, and it gets annoying when I'm supposed to have this great impact playing so little this season.
"All of a sudden, I'm the bad locker room guy. I'm the problem…"
Jackson was talking through the tears now, trying to make you understand why he felt so liberated, why he was so thrilled to climb aboard that flight to Detroit on Friday morning.
"The whole time, I was honest," he said. "I wanted to start. And then, I became the problem in the locker room to people who have never been in our locker room. …I mean, come on.
"Coming here, this is such a weight off my shoulders, a new beginning. To come play with a new group of guys, to start to change this perception of me, I can't wait to get to the arena tonight and meet them all."
And then, the tears started again, and Reggie Jackson apologized and hoped you understood why he had been moved to such emotion. This is important to him, his life's work, and he's beyond grateful to Van Gundy for the belief in his character, his talents, his tomorrow.
"It wasn't easy this year, to go to bed at night and think about how you're considered the problem and each and every day, people testing your character. …I couldn't walk last year, couldn't go to sleep without taking pills for my back and I gave them everything I had there.
"And then, to have people tarnish your name … it just means so much to have someone finally believe in you. I'm Stan's point guard now, and I want that responsibility. He can cuss me out in the film room, do whatever he needs to do for this team and me, because at least now I have control on the court. That's all I ever wanted."
"This is my shot now," he said on Friday afternoon, on his way out of the hotel and on to the Palace of Auburn Hills. The tears wouldn't stop coming. Finally, he had a basketball team, had a franchise to call his own, and this was everything Reggie Jackson has wanted in the NBA.
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