"I wanted out pretty bad. Things were going bad. I was getting blamed for everything. I wasn't seeing eye to eye with the team. I got fined in the preseason, which was ridiculous. It was just a lot of things that I didn't agree with that was going on."- Stephen Jackson on why he wanted out of Golden State
From the outside looking in, I knew exactly where Jackson was coming from when he made those comments to the Associate Press (AP) back in 2009. I had questioned all of the Warrior's personnel moves the months before the trade between the Warrior and Bobcats went down. Although different circumstances led to each player's ultimate departure, I really couldn't see why Golden State had such trouble keeping together a team that had upset the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs. Jax, Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, Matt Barnes, Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins, Mickael Pietrus, Al Harrington. I mean, that roster could do serious damage today! But like all of the other good Warrior teams, the organization let the key cogs slip away.
Jackson refused to be a part of a rebuilding mediocre team. Why? Not because they were mediocre. Golden State had been terrible for years before (with 38 being their highest win total since a 50 win campaign in 1993-1994) that ultimate playoff upset in 2007, but because the organization gave off signs that it would never be a winner, pulling off one of the most monumental upsets in sports history only to disband the team months later.
I admit, Stephen Jackson is probably the closest thing to a thug/gangster that you'll ever see in the NBA which even scares some fans from being fans. The strip club gun incident and the Palace Brawl only add to the "Bad Boy" perception Jackson has managed to create through his explosive on the court attitude and tattoos. I probably have a much softer spot for Captain Jack and his antics than your usual NBA fan because I grew up around people that are, well, just like him. And I understand the concern, it's just honestly, I feel like he and people like him are misunderstood. Instead of looking at Jackson as a player ready to explode, I seem him as a player desperate to win. And instead of seeing the Palace Brawl as a thug being a thug, I see it as someone being the ultimate teammate.
When you play basketball, and you're REALLY playing basketball, you get into a mode where nothing or nobody can touch you. At least, I know I do. I'm not talking about your daily shootarounds with the kids or your 3 point contests with friends at the local YMCA, I'm talking about really getting down to business. That I'm going to beat you, and you don't have a chance type of play. It's a mode that sets all-time greats like Michael Jordan and Bryant apart from other greats like LeBron James (so far) and Patrick Ewing. It's a mode that Jackson gets in every time he plays the game. And it's a mode that pushed the Bobcats into the playoffs for the first time ever.
Realize, all of these NBA players are talented, but the amount of confidence each player displays is what really sets them apart. Jack is the ultimate confidence guy, even proclaiming to be better than Kobe Bryant on one particular occasion, and that's why he's so important to the team. He brings a level of confidence to the Bobcat organization that they had never seen before. Is it a coincidence that right after we made the trade for Jackson, we became a playoff contender for the first time in franchise history? I mean, think about it. We had a pretty decent roster in Larry's first year and we were still only able to pull 35 wins out of it (the franchise record high at that point). In some ways, you can attribute the Bobcats being a legitimate team in the league directly to Jackson.
Since Paul Silas has taken over the reigns from Larry Brown, the team is 6-2 and Jackson has lead the team in scoring (21 pt. avg.) every game except for yesterday's victory over the Chicago Bulls and a victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on January 5th in which he didn't play. A few weeks ago, we all agreed that Larry Brown was the main issue with the Bobcats miserable start, but Jackson is still receiving a lot of the blame as well. Why?
1. Because he argued with Boris Diaw about a pass that wasn't his fault. : Listen, I know that it was completely Jackson's fault for throwing that pass in the first place and his hollering at Boris was totally unwarranted, but why can't we treat that as an isolated incident? There have been plenty of times since then where I've seen Jackson high five Boris for executing on some of his passes and vice versa. Jackson is a good teammate. He's just fiery and can sometimes let his emotions get to him, much like the man he compares himself to, Kobe. Besides, doesn't this look like guys getting along?
2. Because he continues to take jabs at Larry Brown. : Although I agree with you guys that it's probably time to lay off of Larry (I have a soft spot for people who look like turtles), what Jackson is saying is true. D.J. has said it in so many words, Tyrus has said it, hell, even Matt Carroll was said it. it's just a different atmosphere in Charlotte. Even we, the fans can tell. No one around the league is looking at an interview with Jackson talking about how much better life is now and thinking he's going overboard, just us here because we're waiting for Jackson to "explode".
3. Because he took a bad shot to end the Warriors game. : You wouldn't believe how many players have done flat out questionable things to end close games this year. I've seen it myself. From Kobe Bryant, to Andray Blatche, to Monta Ellis, to Zach Randolph, players do dumb things to end the game sometimes and don't use their heads. Sometimes it works, a lot of the time, it doesn't. Obviously, with momentum on our side and the refs calling everythiing on the Warriors, the best move would have been for Jackson to drive the lane and attempt to draw a foul. Instead, he hoists up a 3 point shot with us only being down 1. But I think the fact that even with that let down, the team is moving full steam of ahead is enough to let that one slide. It's not the first time it's happened, and as long as players like J.R. Smith are around the league, it won't be the last.
4. Because, he's Stephen Jackson. : Again, I understand everyone's concern about the man being ready to blow up, but how fair is it to label a man a ticking time bomb when he hasn't really done anything to put off those vibes in weeks. The whole mood of the team under Larry Brown was different, and I'm absolutely sure some of the things that Larry was preaching in practice were getting under his skin. But let's not judge Jax differently because of his history. All of the players were complaining to some extent. Those 3 30 point losses in less than 2 weeks(think about that for a second and say "wow" to yourself) were proof in my eyes that the whole team mentally checked out to Larry. I don't hold it against Jax that he was one of them. The only player that probably misses Larry right now is Dominic McGuire, for obvious reasons.
A trade for Stephen Jackson netting fair value is virtually impossible because he means so much more to us than teams "think" he would mean to them. However, from years of just watching the NBA and learning about player mentalities, I know that Jackson could push a lot of borderline teams over the hump. Which is the same that he does for us. He pushes us from being bad to being decent, and for a team like the Dallas Mavericks, he could probably push them from being perennial playoff contender to being a championship contender.
The fact that teams aren't interested in giving us fair value back to me is enough alone to hold onto Jack. After all, after this year, he only has 2 years remaining on his contract. For those of us worrying about him getting old, all we have to worry about is him not slowing down this year (looks like he's doing fine so far) and being able to put out a decent effort next year (debatable, but I think he can). In 2 years, Jackson will be an expiring 10 million dollar contract and his value will be higher than ever, no matter what decline he suffers. As for the ticking time bomb theory, I'm not worrying about the implosion, because he still has eyes on him...................
Til then, I think we need to think about who gave the Bobcats fans hope in the start by making love to pressure.