Jackson brings fiery passion to Bucks

Veteran has earned universal respect of teammates

By Truman Reed

Scott Skiles

"At the end of the day, my heart is in the right place. I care about winning. I care about being there for the people I care about and the people I work with every day. If people say that's weird, hey, I'm weird.”

If one were to index all of the articles that have been written about Stephen Jackson during his 11+ years in the National Basketball Association, it might appear that his given name was “Volatile Stephen Jackson,” judging by the number of times that reference has been used.

Jackson, though, would never allow such a label to bother him. After all, it sure beats tags that go to the other extreme such as indifferent, ignorant or uncaring. None of those have ever been tied to him.

During his first mass meeting with the Milwaukee media, Jackson talked openly about what makes him tick and how he rolls.

"Sometimes I'm loyal to a fault,” Jackson said. “Sometimes my emotions end up hurting me.

"At the end of the day, my heart is in the right place. I care about winning. I care about being there for the people I care about and the people I work with every day. If people say that's weird, hey, I'm weird.”

Milwaukee is the seventh NBA stop for the 6-foot-8-inch guard/forward, who averaged 16.3 points, 4 rebounds and 3.3 assists over his first 11 years in the league. He has approached his job in the same manner at each of those stops and has established a reputation as a fiery competitor and loyal teammate.

“I don't mind leading by example,” he said. “I don't mind fighting for my team. I don't mind putting myself on the line for my teammates. That's what a leader does. I've always been a team player. You can't teach somebody to be a leader. You have to be born with it. If I say I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it. That's why I'm respected, I guess."

Jackson has also earned the respect of many opposing players and coaches, including the man who became his current coach when the Bucks acquired him last June 23 in a draft-day trade with Charlotte and Sacramento.

 “’Jack’ is a proven scorer,” Bucks Head Coach Scott Skiles said. “He can make big shots in big moments. He’s proven that. He’s playoff-tested. He’s volatile. Everybody knows that. He’s going to play with a passion and intensity out there. That’s appealing. At the same time, there’s a flip side to that. It goes back to the chemistry

"One thing that's always been said about Steve is his teammates always like him. You know that there's going to come a time when there's something going on. He may get two Ts and get tossed out of a game 3 minutes in. And we want to minimize all of that, obviously. But if teammates always like a guy and gravitate toward a guy, he's doing something right."

Jackson developed a respect for Skiles, too, during their years as opponents.

“I've always wanted to play for Scott,” Jackson said. “He's been one of the very few coaches who I've gone over and shook hands with when I've been on opposing teams. I'm looking forward to me and him arguing. That means there's fire on the team and we're going in the right direction.

"To be able to play for him is definitely a blessing for me. I've been able to play for a lot of great coaches. Now I'm not only playing for another great coach, but he was a great player, so that's a blessing, too."
Jackson smiled when told that Skiles welcomed the “edge” that he expected him to bring to the Bucks.
"I respect that,” Jackson said. “I know his heart. He's not a mean guy or an unhappy guy; his passion is in his job. He loves his job. This is his life. I know how he feels because I play the game the same way.

“If I dive for a ball and I don't wake up the next morning, I'll be happy with that because I'll know I died doing something that I love to do. So I kind of relate to him. Drive is heart, intensity and passion and it's almost humbleness. I'm big on that."

Jackson is big on the prospect of becoming part of a winning team in Milwaukee, too, and expressed excitement about playing alongside center Andrew Bogut and point guard Brandon Jennings.

"I'm excited, man,” he said. “The last time I had a good point guard and a big man, I was able to win a championship -- that was with San Antonio. I'm excited to be here with these guys and see what we can do.

“I know my job is easy. I've just got to be a leader and have everybody buy into what the coach wants to do. That's easy. If everybody's on the same page and everybody plays their role, we'll have an exciting year."

Jackson developed a lot of respect for Bogut during the years in which he played against him and rates him in the NBA hierarchy at the center position.

"I think he's top-three, man,” Jackson said. “I've got him behind Dwight (Howard) and (Pau) Gasol. Playing defense is going to be great with Bogut back there. I can pressure up more. I'm ready to turn it up."

Jackson immediately embraced the idea of playing alongside Jennings, too.

"I love that kid,” Jackson said. “Of course, I was on the opposite end of his 55 points (while playing for Golden State). I know what this kid can do. He's put on a little weight and he's worked hard his summer. He's one guy I stayed in contact with during the summer. I'm excited to see what he's going to do.

”We have all the tools here. We have a great group of young guys. We have two stars in Brandon and Andrew, and this is their team. There's no question about that. Everybody else has to buy in and back these guys up to get the goals we want done."

Jackson will continue to pursue those goals in the same the way he always has. And he realizes that way isn’t always understood by the fans.

"A lot of people don't know me because they've never had the chance to talk to me,” he said. “They've just seen me play on the court. I am crazy on the court. I don't mind getting kicked out. I don't mind fighting. I love the game that much. And I hate losing. So if people misunderstand me for that, that's cool.

"Off the court, I'm a totally different guy. I'm a family guy, which people never get a chance to see because they always show the bad stuff. I know that on every team I've played on, I've done my job. I've been a factor. Every guy I've played with wants to play with me, so at the end of the day, if the people I work with and the people I work for know me as a person, I can live with that.”

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