Jun 06, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Stephen Jackson (3) reacts after scoring against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first half in game six of the Western Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIRE
The profileMinutes: 23.8Points: 8.9Rebounds: 3.9Assists: 2.0FG%: 40.5%3P%: 30.6%FT%: 81.5%
The (advanced) profileTS%: 52.9%USG%: 19.5%PER: 13.1Offensive PPP: 0.96 (94th)Defensive PPP: 1.00 (437th)Offensive rating (points per 100 possessions): 98Defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions): 100
The prevailing image I’ll take away from Stephen Jackson’s season is his voracious willingness to continue shooting, attacking and rebounding in spite of his surroundings. You should expect this kind of mental strength from elite players but not from role players. Role players always take a back seat. Role players generally succumb to the pressure and delve away from their strengths, highlighting their weaknesses. That’s what happened to Danny Green. And Matt Bonner. And Tiago Splitter. The list goes on.
Jack is an outlier to this expectation. He thrives in an unsettling environment and perverse situations — though it should be noted that he struggles with poor teams. His shining moment, unsurprisingly, was in the Spurs’ final game. He didn’t allow the Thunder defense to disrupt his shot. Once he corralled the ball after Parker or Ginobili defeated the defense at the point of attack, there was no doubt. Jack was letting the ball fly. On that night, the ball and rim had a beautiful, undeniable, reciprocity. The ball was going to find the rim just like Jack was going to find a way to stem the tide and hopefully ignite the Spurs’ No. 1 offensive attack.
The latter, of course, did not happen. The former happened quite often and, on the rare instance where the ball didn’t find the twine of the net, Jackson was at the line because Oklahoma City was forced to close out quickly and abruptly. It led to a couple of fouls against a jump shooter behind the 3-point line. A cardinal sin. Even though it’s never a good idea to foul a jump shooter, there over aggressive close outs were justified because Jack could not miss. He finished with 23 points on 6-of-7 shooting. An outstanding 3.29 points per shot attempt. Looking back, I wish he could’ve taken 35 shots.
Or perhaps what I’ll remember most is his smile in the face of adversity. He was relishing the moment, basking in it and tearing apart the Thunder defense like no other San Antonio perimeter shooter could. It was beautiful. It was perfect. It was to no avail but, still, the performance was indicative of his indomitable psyche.
Yes, Jack received an ill-advised technical because of his reputation. He merely gave a look to Thunder assistant coach Maurice Cheeks. The technical infuriated me obviously. It was an act of precaution. Delving deeper, though, I believe they called the technical because they don’t understand Jack. They didn’t understand he had good intentions in this instance. They didn’t understand that, at this stage of his career, a brawl was highly unlikely. It’s a part of his maturation as a player and a person.
Maybe it’s his candor or previous transgressions that did him. But don’t let them fool you: He’s a great teammate and a valuable cog for the San Antonio. Jonathan Abrams highlighted Jackson in a brilliant extended feature for Grantland. Conveniently, it was right before his explosion in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. Here’s the money quote:
“A lot of people mistake my passion for the game with being a thug or a gangster,” he said. “I’m far from that. I’m just a guy who come up in the hood and came from nothing and made something and hasn’t changed. I’m still going to be in Port Arthur all summer walking around with no shoes on, eating crawfish, barbecue, going fishing. I’m going to be the same guy, and I take pride in saying that because a lot of NBA players are not touchable. They’re not real. But I take pride in being a regular guy that people can walk up to and I’m not Hollywood. I want people to understand that that’s the person I am and I’m not changing for nothing.”
Yes, he’s not changing. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Performance of the year: June 6, 2012 at Oklahoma City. W 107-99.The line: 32:04 MIN | 6-7 FG | 5-6 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 23 PTS | -4
Is there any doubt? This was Jackson’s shining moment as the Spur this season. When the deck was stacked against San Antonio and a hostile crowd was breathing down their necks, Jack knocked down six 3-pointers and drew two fouls off 3-pointers after the defense aggressively keyed on him. Afterwards, Jack was extremely professional and he accepted the loss for what it was: a loss to a superior team.
So, what would you grade Jack’s season, Spurs fans?
Season grade: B