If you don’t ask, you don’t get. That’s the slogan Stephen Jackson apparently lived by when he asked out of Golden State over the summer. His choice to publicly demand a trade made his life a living hell for the first few months of the season. On top of being fined by the league, Jackson went through a messy divorce with the Warriors organization and became the hottest topic in the basketball media for the first quarter of the season.
But here we are in late January, halfway through the season and Jackson is now a member of the Charlotte Bobcats. He’s proved skeptics wrong and has lifted the franchise from the bottom of the East all the way to fifth place in the conference. Other than the Thunder, the Bobcats have been the league’s most surprising team. Since the ball dropped in Times Square, Charlotte has owned the league’s best record (9-1) in 2010 – including six straight wins.
Leading the charge for the Bobcats is the man who was known as a cancer just months ago. Before he came to the team, the Bobcats averaged just 82.4 ppg and shot 39.4 from the field. Since his arrival, the team’s offense has skyrocketed and they’re now putting up 97.7 ppg and shooting 46.6 percent. In the month of January, Jackson is averaging 24.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 3.7 apg. The 31-year-old guard/forward scored a career high 43 points in a big win against the Rockets on Jan. 12. Jackson was also recently named Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
“I knew this was a place where I could be myself,” Jackson told reporters Thursday. “I’m with some guys who play hard and want to win, and that’s what I wanted to be a part of. I didn’t want to be a part of an organization that was going young and worried about being good in three years and not now.”
Captain Jack’s impact has been surprising. After the Warriors gave into his wishes and shipped him off to Charlotte, many people thought he was in a worse situation by going to the Bobcats. On top of not going to a winning franchise like he had originally hoped (Jackson was asking to be traded to either Cleveland, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas), he was also going to a team that had Larry Brown – a coach who is notorious for clashing with players with strong personalities (i.e. Stephon Marbury and Allen Iverson). Beat writers and haters were just waiting for the two to start clashing. But so far, that is exactly what hasn’t happened.
Jackson has thrived in Brown’s system and the two have gotten along well. Brown has praised Jackson’s leadership as well as his ability and willingness to play defense. Jackson is also meshing well with the Bobcats’ other star, Gerald Wallace, who is having an All-Star season. Even though he’s only been a Bobcat for a few months, Jackson has already earned the respect of his teammates and has grown into their leader. The nine-year veteran’s passion and competitiveness has rubbed off on the rest of the roster.
“He’s very confident as he comes out on the court,” Wallace said of Jackson this week. “I think that rubs off on guys.”
I remember sitting in the Bobcats’ locker room earlier this month when they were in town to play the Knicks, and watching Jackson interact with all his teammates, coaches and team employees. He was the life of the locker room, and judging by the comradery he had with everybody, you would have thought he was with the franchise for several years.
I also recall that day back in August when he told me he wanted out of Golden State and wanted another chance at a ring (Jackson won a championship with the Spurs in 2003).
“I’m 31 years old,” Jackson told Dime on Aug. 28. “I have four or five years left, I want to be in a situation where I can continually be in the playoffs and get another ring. So that’s where my mind is at now.”
Even though it’s in the most unlikely of places, Captain Jack is getting that chance now. And he’s taking full advantage of it.
Do you guys think that the Bobcats can finish in the top 5 of the East?