With the culmination of this season complete, the Bobcats have bid farewell to the two largest parts of their roster from the playoff season that finished barely a little more than a year ago: Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson.
Gerald Wallace was the hometown favorite, hardworking, played his heart out - just an electrifying talent.
And he was also a bit more stoic. Not stoic enough to turn off fans by being un-relatable, but for much of his time in Charlotte, he didn't fully express himself.
Stephen Jackson on the other hand, wears his emotions on his sleeve. And then he rips of his sleeves and throws them at the referees when he doesn't get a foul call on offense.
His anger and frustration on the court often had immediate and significant impact on the court, which doesn't exactly enchant the fans. Technical fouls, standing near the basket while the opponents sprinted down the floor for a fast break, you name it. Jack wasn't luring any fans during a massively disappointing season with his antics that had losing implications.
But to simply dismiss him as having a losing attitude is oversimplification. We all know his negatives on the court: he has the tendency to halt ball movement when the rock hits his hands; he has poor shot selection; he often takes too many shots; his emotions often take over, in a bad way.
But when a team like ours struggles through a season like they did, it's not exactly in vogue to focus on anything but the negatives and where everyone needs to improve. This leaves most of the fanbase loathing players like Stephen Jackson, who doesn't react exceptionally well to consistent defeat.
People far too often forget or willingly ignore Jack's positive characteristics. He's an incredibly versatile player as a nightly scoring threat and an intelligent defensive player, and above all, he's a fantastic teammate.
That may seem like a confusing statement considering the aforementioned taking plays off, taking too many shots, etc. And yet, it's undeniably true. There aren't many other players in the league that you'd want to back you or your teammates.
"HA, YEAH LOLZ LIKE IN THE BRAWL IN DETROIT, HUR HURRR," you may say.
Don't be so simpleminded and brashly judgmental, says I. Stephen Jackson had a tough childhood, seeing his brother die when Jack was just a young adolescent. With such a tragedy in his formative years, I would think it hardly a stretch that the close bonds formed in locker rooms and on basketball courts become extremely close to brotherly relationships to Jackson, and most athletes. "You can't tell me seeing his brother die that way hasn't had an effect. To me, it's why he is always coming to the help of his teammates," Donnie Walsh once said of Stephen. That's not to say the fighting in Detroit is completely justified or his firing a gun outside of a strip club. They're not. There's fault on either side, but the uninformed public still use only one side as cause to loathe him and shower him with unfair generalizations. Further, to give Jackson the connotation as a thug or violent is incorrect. He's a protective teammate who may be a little misguided in how to actually protect his teammates.
On the basketball side of things, Jackson is often more of an enigma. Just as easily as he can drop a 17-27 for 40 points, Stephen could founder, struggling to right his shot for a whole game, ending with 4-18 for 11 points. They say one of the best things for a shooter is a short memory, and Jackson certainly employs that mindset. But on nights when his shot just isn't finding the bottom of the net, he may try to force it, which makes the offense much easier to defend and digs the team further into a deepening hole. This problem was most evident in his past season for the Bobcats when he basically became the sole scoring threat and tried to take scoring on his shoulders every night, which just isn't feasible.
And as I had noted, Jack has an absolutely magnetic personality. He could entertain a signpost if needed. If you ever got a chance to meet him or see him interact with kids or any part of the public, you can probably testify to his ability to get along with anyone and make an impression on their life. Goodbye, Stack Jack aka Captain Jack. You shall be missed.
The other player who leaves us is Shaun Livingston. I think most Bobcats fans were unsure about his signing since he hasn't been a prominent player since his pre-injury days as a Clipper. I was ecstatic about his arrival, shoring up the backcourt defense and adding some versatility to the offensive side of the Bobcats.
Outside of myself and a few others, I don't think there were many fans who were so enamored with Shaun from the get-go. On the Bobcats' Facebook page (which is both depressing and hilarious simultaneously), I remember seeing someone urge the Bobcats to put Sherron Collins above Livingston in playing time.
As the season wore on, Livingston shook the rust off and became an impressive point guard off the bench. It wasn't hard to see why he started for the Wizards at the end of last season and how he earned his way back into the league with significant playing time after at one point having to face the possibility that he might have to have part of his leg amputated. With a unique and fluid offensive style, I don't know how people didn't like Shaun.
He's not the fastest guy on the floor, but his court vision is extraordinary. I can just picture him striding up the court, using a hesitation stutter-step at the three-point line, and then he drives to the paint - but no one knows what's next. Perhaps just as sudden as the drive, he stops, pulls up for the jump shot and elevates, now much higher than his defender, releasing the ball and snapping his wrist. The ball doesn't have much arc, but it doesn't need to be rainbow due to his elevation over the defender. It kisses the back iron inside the hoop and drops straight down. Or maybe he continues driving and maneuvers around the defender for a slick layup. The possibilities go on and on: threading the needle with a pass to the big man trailing, seamlessly moving into post moves in the paint before spinning around the opponent, etc. As I said before, Shaun's offense just has a very smooth, fluid nature and even though he's starting and stopping, he's not being jagged or rough with his moves.
He maintained an effortless essence of cool that reminded me of Walt "Clyde" Frazier. In Clyde's book he often speaks about how to be cool, which could also describe Livingston. His emotions are always under control, no matter whether if someone intentionally and maliciously fouled him or if he knocked down a big shot. He is an utter pro. I mean, how many guys can dunk through traffic, get shoved by LeBron James afterward and then shrug it off completely while getting back on defense? Farewell, Knee Man. We'll miss you a lot.
Best of luck to both Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston in Milwaukee and wherever else they may go.