How Will Jackson’s Role Change?

by Conrad Brunner

Sept. 6, 2005

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2005
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Conrad Brunner

Q. With J.O. (Jermaine O'Neal) and (Ron) Artest back in the lineup, the Pacers are pretty much guaranteed the best forward duo in the NBA in terms of offense and defense. This does, however, make (Stephen) Jackson a third-option scorer, at best. Last year he tended to not use his slashing ability and took bad shots in addition to being a somewhat inconsistent defender. This could have been due to his belief he had to carry the team, but this season that won't be the case. Will the coaching staff try to play off Jackson's size advantage and encourage him to be primarily a defensive stopper and 3-point threat or will he be allowed to roam like he did last year? (From Justin in Cape Coral, Fla.)

A. You raise a very interesting question, because Jackson has spent the past two seasons in a primary scorer's role, averaging 18.1 points (and 15.7 shots per game) in Atlanta in 2003-04, followed by career highs of 18.7 points (and 16.1 shots) with the Pacers last season. Though certainly a capable scorer who doesn't lack confidence or aggression when the ball comes his way, Jackson seems best suited to the role that awaits him this season and not as a go-to guy.

It's safe to assume the offense will continue to run through O'Neal and Artest, which leaves Jackson in a position comparable to that which he had in San Antonio three years ago. Though his scoring average was modest (11.8), he was extremely valuable to the Spurs' championship run because of the energy he brought to the floor, his defensive ability and his timely shot-making. That's when he really was at his best, regardless of his statistical increases of the last couple of seasons.

When Jackson first arrived in Indianapolis, he said he didn't care about individual statistics and just wanted to contribute to a winning situation. Last season was an aberration for many reasons, with players forced into unexpected and in some cases unprecedented roles. That included Jackson, who carried a much larger than anticipated share of the scoring load. In many ways, then, this season will be the first in which we see the real Stephen Jackson.