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ORLANDO – Demetrius Jackson was driving Tuesday morning up to Portland, Maine to practice with the Maine Red Claws when he received a call from the Boston Celtics’ front office.
The C’s 2016 second-round draft pick was informed that Boston’s star point guard, Isaiah Thomas, had injured his groin the night before in Houston, and that the team needed his aid down in Orlando as it prepared to take on the Magic Wednesday night.
The sudden change of plans threw Jackson for a loop, as he had to catch an evening flight down to Orlando, while Thomas flew in the other direction back to Boston.
“I had to whip the car back around, drive back home and pack up some stuff. But it was really exciting,” Jackson recollected Wednesday morning before shootaround at Amway Center in Orlando. “It’s like coming back to your family.”
Jackson’s early experience as a pro has been a whirlwind, as he has been back and forth between the NBA and the D-League a few times during the first month of the regular season.
The unpredictability of the situation means that the 22-year-old is constantly being forced to adjust, but he says it’s a process that keeps him humble and hungry.
“The variables are different (between the NBA and the D-League), but all those things just make you tougher,” said Jackson. “The flights are early in the morning (in the D-League) – 5 am flights – stuff like that, but that’s just all stuff that you gotta push through. And it makes you tougher in the long run.”
It’s a process that Jackson will need to get used to, as we’ve seen guys like Jordan Mickey, James Young and Terry Rozier experience similar situations during the last couple of seasons in order to boost their growth through consistent playing time.
“The purpose is to get game reps and then to make sure that you’re staying in game shape if you know you’re not going to be a part of the rotation,” said Brad Stevens. “The purpose is to keep playing.”
So far, Jackson has been playing at a high level with the Red Claws, having averaged 19.6 points, 6.5 assists and 5.9 rebounds during eight games.
The point guard’s extended playing time and success with Maine has boosted his confidence, which he hopes will result in a comfortable transition back to the NBA level.
“It’s a great adjustment coming back here,” said Jackson. “Every single time I come back I learn something new, so I’m looking forward to learning again today.”
Not only will Wednesday be a learning experience for Jackson; he may also end up earning some playing time now that Thomas is out of the equation. And he says he’ll be ready for any situation that’s thrown at him.
“I just want to use what I’ve learned in the D-League and do whatever the team needs me to do,” said Jackson. “Whether that’s cheering on the bench or whether that’s coming into the game to play. I just want to do that to the best of my ability.”
Jackson has played just 15 total minutes for the Celtics this season, but those have been 15 very productive minutes – he has tallied 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting to go along with three rebounds, two assists and zero turnovers.
The hungry guard is hoping to make a similar impact if his name is called upon Wednesday night, as the shorthanded Celtics look to grab a win in Orlando.