addByline("Marc D'Amico", "Celtics.com", "Marc_DAmico");
WALTHAM, Mass. – Jae Crowder’s message to rookie Demetrius Jackson was simple: find a routine.
Doing so is easier said than done for Jackson, because his playing status is drastically different now than it ever has been during his basketball life.
Jackson has always been one of the best players on any court he dribbled on. He was a McDonald’s All-American and an All-State performer during high school in Indiana. He was an All-ACC performer during his four-year career at Notre Dame.
Now, he’s simply fighting for a spot on the Celtics roster, and waiting for his number to be called.
The waiting game has been a tough one for Jackson. He played only seven total minutes during Boston’s first two preseason games, totaling just two points. But during Saturday’s win over Charlotte, on a day Brad Stevens rested many of his top players, Jackson finally got his chance.
The point guard logged 15 minutes of playing time and took advantage of every moment of it. He scored nine points off the bench, the most of any Celtics reserve who played fewer than 20 minutes, to go along with two rebounds and two assists.
It was a successful performance off the bench for a guy who has almost always opened up games on the court. He was successful because he is beginning to find a routine as a reserve.
That routine, oddly enough, is a bit unpredictable.
“One of the things I do is with Coach (Brandon) Bailey,” Jackson revealed Monday morning. “He just randomly grabs me at any time and we do a shooting drill and I have a certain number I want to reach.
“So that kind of simulates just being grabbed off the bench. You never know when you’re going to get called, and then you’ve got to make shots.”
Jackson made half of his six shots during Saturday’s win, including a 2-for-3 performance from long range.
The rookie also pointed out that his mental approach to games has needed to change while adjusting to his new role.
“I just try to stay just mentally prepared, physically prepared,” he said. “Try to work as hard as I can on (practice) days like today. And then just keep my mind in the game, and you can do that by getting up and celebrating for your teammates, staying locked in.”
Make no mistake about it: making such drastic adjustments is not easy for a basketball player. This is a process for Jackson, one his teammates are walking him through.
Crowder and Jonas Jerebko are two veterans who have been very active in trying to help Jackson build a foundation for a successful career.
“You stay in this gym when no one else is here,” Crowder recalls telling Jackson. “Don’t get too down on yourself, because you have one of the best jobs in the world: you’re playing professional basketball.
“Just take it day by day. Just come in every day, listen in practice and treat practices like games.”
Jerebko’s leadership has been from more of a tactical perspective.
“He has done a great job of just helping educate me,” Jackson said of Jerebko. “He just talks to me about some of the reads off the screens, some of the things defensively that we try to do as a team, just so I can be more comfortable moving when I’m out there with the group.”
Two weeks into his first training camp, Jackson is coming off of a solid performance during which he looked quite comfortable out on the court. An added positive is that his teammates and coaches appear to be very comfortable with him, too.
“I think he’s a real mature, business-oriented, tough-minded guy,” Stevens said, lauding the player he has known for years dating back to his days at Butler on the high school recruiting trail. “He’s a great guy to have around, that’s for sure.”
Crowder added his perspective on what Jackson brings to the table.
“Demetrius plays very old school,” Crowder said. “We were laughing about that the other day. He doesn’t hurt himself. He doesn’t turn the ball over. He’s going to run the offense. He’s not going to do anything he can’t do, and I like that about him. He comes to work every day.”
That’s all you can ask for from a rookie who’s learning a whole new lifestyle – and a whole new routine – during the infancy stages of his professional career.