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Stephen Jackson throws Popovich under the bus
Wow! Mind games?
Here for fun ? Jackson flies from reality - San Antonio Express-News
MIAMI — Stephen Jackson flew commercial to Miami on Tuesday. He should have been on the Spurs' charter.
He should have been joking with Tim Duncan and listening to Gregg Popovich. He should have been preparing for his second Finals and hoping he would get a few minutes trying to defend LeBron James; the Spurs might have been better for that, too.
Instead, Jackson sat in 3A, on United flight 1158, from Houston to Miami.
Any regrets, he was asked?
“Nope,” he said. “Got my money.”
He smiled broadly, as if to convince himself.
Jackson says he didn't come to Miami to watch the Finals. He said he hasn't watched any of the Spurs' games this spring.
He's here to have fun, and he's been having a lot since the Spurs released him. Jackson has been sharing his luxurious life online, from a trip to Jamaica to the occasional pedicure. The posts have also come about the time the Spurs have been playing games.
So maybe there's something about the juxtaposition, especially for a man whose most powerful trait also happens to be his most destructive one. Pride.
Billy Calzada, San Antonio Express-News
Stephen Jackson of the San Antonio Spurs triple pumps and scores over Klay Thompson of Golden State during NBA action at the AT&T Center on Wednesday, March 20, 2013.
Tuesday brought this out. Then, Jackson talked about Popovich.
A year ago Jackson announced, in so many words, Popovich was the only coach who could handle him. Tuesday he said he refused this season to play Popovich's “mind games.”
That goes against Popovich's reputation as a straight shooter. That also goes against the conversation Popovich had just before the Spurs traded for Jackson in 2012.
Then, Popovich told Jackson what he would have to accept if the Spurs were going to proceed with the trade: No contract extension and no guarantee of playing time.
Jackson happily agreed, and last season he gave the Spurs some life. In the finale, in Game 6 in Oklahoma City, he may have been the Spur most comfortable with the tension.
He began this past season looking slower, and his shooting percentages fell. So did his minutes. He admits now he sparred with Popovich for about half the season. And after Popovich released him just days before the regular season ended, Jackson posted this on Instagram:
“I would never say a player is better than me when I know their (sic) not. Not for no one. #uandiknowwhatsgoingon”
Tuesday he revealed who he was talking about: Danny Green and Manu Ginobili.
Jackson insists Popovich wanted him to admit Green and Ginobili were better. More than likely, Popovich simply told Jackson they were better. That's why they were playing instead of him.
Pride wouldn't let Jackson accept that, and he admitted as much Tuesday. After showing the initial flash of anger when talking about Popovich, he later said Popovich knows him well, and that the release “was best for me so I wouldn't go crazy.”
Or, as Jackson said Tuesday, again smiling, “I wouldn't want me on the team, either.”
Still, Jackson insists he was right to not bend, in part, because he was right the previous time he left the Spurs. Then, after the 2003 championship, Popovich was equally blunt.
Jackson brought up the specifics again Tuesday, how he ended playoff series after playoff series with big shots. But when the season was over, Popovich told Jackson in his exit interview: You haven't earned career money yet.
Jackson's successes outweighed his failures, but by how much? His turnovers were an issue, as was the volatility of uneven Stephen.
“He's a good-hearted guy,” a teammate said then. “And when he was angry, it wasn't because he was demanding the ball or anything like that. But he was so sensitive and emotional that it was difficult to coach, and it was tough for a teammate, too. The countless pouting sessions began to drag on everyone.”
That's why Popovich had a price in mind. He didn't want to be stuck with an expensive problem.
So the Spurs offered about $10 million over three years. When Jackson hesitated, the Spurs moved on.
Jackson had no choice but to accept the only offer out there, from Atlanta for $1 million. In response, Sports Illustrated pictured him wearing a dunce cap.
Jackson loves what followed. He proved himself that season, eventually earning the payday he thought he always should have had. He thinks it can happen again now; he says one team called him on the very day the Spurs released him.
It's possible he's right. But NBA teams bet on young talent all the time. How many will want to risk anything on Jackson now?
Golden State took on Richard Jefferson's longer contract, for example, just to avoid Jackson's baggage. And now Popovich — one of the league's best coaches — has given up on him.
Told on Tuesday he might have been better served to be the good soldier on a Finals team, Jackson shook his head. But he didn't give a clear answer why he disagreed with that. He said, simply, things work out for a reason.
Jackson, as the former Spur said years ago, is still “a good-hearted guy.” He also has friends on the team. He says he's seen Gary Neal, and he's texted Duncan and Kawhi Leonard.
Still, many athletes have a hard time admitting when their skills diminish. Jackson, with his pride, can't even consider it has happened to him.
So he flew to Miami on the same day the Spurs did, denying he would be better off if he were with them.
When he would be.
Last edited by jeffb; 06-05-2013 at 01:26 PM.