Posted Dec 22 2009 9:20AM
Most guys aren't this patient. Most guys after a loss on a road -- in a game that probably should have won -- want to hit the showers and the road. Sure, they might take three or four questions as they get dressed, but as soon as they're ready, they're gone.
Stephen Jackson isn't most guys. The Bobcats had given one away at Dallas, but Captain Jack patiently waded through every question from all comers. He sat at his locker all set to shower frustrated by the loss, not by the invasion of privacy and without a hint of anxiousness.
As each new reporter strolled up to his locker in search of quotes, Jackson was engaged. The answers sounded somewhat rehearsed, a natural consequence of questions that get repeated from town to town. Jackson knows the drill.
"I'm glad to be here," he said of the Nov. 16 trade to Charlotte.
The bitter falling out with Golden State coach Don Nelson, in large part because the Warriors were no longer contenders, was followed by the move to a franchise that's largely viewed as a non-contender. Jackson doesn't seem concerned with irony or the lottery. It's health, the mental kind, he's craving.
"It's a blessing," Jackson said, looking relieved. "I play this game to win. Obviously, I play to take care of my family, but I want to win. To be with an organization that's almost to the playoffs and wants to win and is dedicated to making the team better is a blessing to me."
For all his emotional swings and drama, ex-coaches tend to stick by Jack. Gregg Popovich loved coaching Jackson, going so far as to say his "antics" during his time with the buttoned-up Spurs were amusing. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle had Jackson in Indiana and remains a huge supporter. Despite the messy divorce in Golden State, Nelson publically professed his affection for Jackson and willingness to work through the issues.
Privately, Nelson and general manager Larry Riley knew the relationship could never be repaired and Jackson needed to be shipped out ASAP. Larry Brown seemed the perfect coach, if there's such a type, for the multidimensional and moody Jackson.
"With Jack, when you really know the guy, you know how good a heart he has and you know what kind of a competitor he is, even though, emotionally, he might go over the line from time to time and you've got to bring him back," said Popovich, a former Brown assistant and close friend. "But Larry loves competitors. He loves people who have an edge and toughness about him, and Stephen certainly has that."
Brown doesn't get intimated by players. He usually does the intimidating. And for a coach with his vagabond track record, Brown doesn't get caught up with baggage. He knows perfectly well what it's like when relationships go sour.
"It's like Allen all over again," Brown quipped, referring to his former soap opera life with Allen Iverson.
Jackson actually tried out for Brown and Philadelphia early in his pro career and impressed the Hall-of-Fame coach. The 76ers, though, didn't have room and Jackson meandered through the CBA for a couple of years before sticking with New Jersey in 2000.
Jackson didn't truly break through until 2002-03 when he played a vital role in San Antonio's run to the NBA title. He also played for the Hawks and Pacers. It was with Indiana where Jackson's reputation as a hothead took hold. As part of the infamous brawl with the Pistons on Nov. 19, 2004, Jackson received a 30-game suspension for going into the stands.
Brown did his homework before the trade, calling Popovich and several of Jackson's former coaches. Charlotte general manager Rod Higgins was part of the Warriors front office when they traded for Jackson in 2007. Brown sees parallels between Jackson and Rasheed Wallace, who has his own less-than-stellar public reputation but is also beloved by teammates.
"I can deal with guys that love to play, that want to get better and are highly competitive," Brown said. "He's all that. He's kinda volatile at times and gets upset when he doesn't think things are fair, just like Rasheed, but he loves to play.
"I think he has unlimited potential. I think he can even get better."
Jackson, 31, is averaging 19.1 points in 17 games with the Bobcats going into tonight's game with Detroit. Charlotte is 7-10 with Jackson, as opposed to 3-6 without, and just on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Jackson has quickly fit into an improving nucleus that includes Gerald Wallace, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Boris Diaw.
"I came in and didn't step on no toes," Jackson said. "A lot of these guys are easy to get along with because we're similar in a lot of ways. There are a lot of young guys here with good hearts that love to play basketball."
The Bobcats, now in their sixth season of existence, have yet to make the playoffs. That's Jackson goal, one he said could be as fulfilling as the championship in San Antonio.
"It always feels good to be a part of something getting better," he said. "I was able to do it and help in Indiana, I was able to do it and help a lot in Golden State and hopefully God grants me the strength to do it here.
"We have a great group of guys and they definitely deserve to get to the playoffs and the next level. Hopefully it can happen."
He's willing to wait.
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