The Los Angeles Clippers announced Monday that they would be bringing in veteran small forward Stephen Jackson as a result of a series of injuries to key personnel. With both Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick out indefinitely through injury, as well as rookie Reggie Bullock recently rolling his ankle, the organization made the decision to add a bit more depth and veteran experience to the side. Potentially a shrewd acquisition, Jackson also comes with a number of question marks that do need addressing.
First of all, the 35-year-old was let go by the San Antonio Spurs days before the start of the 2013 playoffs. Teams need as much depth as possible going into the trying period that is playoff basketball, so right away his dismissal from the team should be a red flag of sorts. We know already that a disagreement took place between Jackson and Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, but it would want to have been something else for the Spurs to actually let him go. Popovich is the best in the business at getting the most out of any player and if he felt he could let Jackson walk, then that is worth noting. Sure Popovich is a fiery character himself and probably very difficult to get on with all of the time. But he is also exceptional at what he does, and that is nurture and coach basketball talent to play at a level above what players themselves believed was capable. Jackson averaged 6.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 19.5 minutes in 55 games last season, numbers that show his days of doing any sort of heavy lifting on a team are most certainly over. With the likes of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin around though, that is hardly necessary anyway, right?
Perhaps not. As mentioned the Clippers have been decimated by injury to key wing players, meaning Jackson will have to give more to this team than he did to the Spurs. Last year he was an afterthought on the offensive end with the likes of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan around. That still holds true in Los Angeles and Jackson is a capable defender, in fact he can be a terrier who hounds opposition players quite well. But certainly he will be expected to contribute in more ways than he has in the past and this is something Jackson may initially struggle to do. In fact, it is not impossible to think Jackson might actually start for the team, something his body would surely take time to acclimatize to. This is all sounding a bit negative though, and there are surely positives to bringing Stephen Jackson on board.
In fact there could be several positives to come from this acquisition for the Clippers. Head coach Doc Rivers is no fool and is one of the most respected coaches in the league. If he felt Jackson was too big a risk he wouldn’t have gone near him, so that is worth taking into consideration. More than that, Jackson could actually turn out to be a great “glue guy” for the team. It has been said that the Clippers are one piece away from truly contending for a championship and Stephen Jackson is not that piece. He could be a nice place-holder though, until Los Angeles does find that player. He is also an emotional player who can provide a unique spark in the way he plays the game. Coaches call it the intangibles and this is something Jackson could bring to the team. A veteran who has seen it all before and has the rings to prove it. An experienced and level head in the locker room who can be a mentor to the younger players on the roster and help them to develop their games. Yes this depends on the attitude Jackson brings with him to the Clippers and it is true there is a question mark as to how he will gel with his new teammates, but this could turn out to be a tidy bit of business for the Clippers going forward.
With Jackson holding down the fort until the return of other players, the Clippers may actually be in a great position when the league really heats up after the All-Star break. When their injured players have returned and the team is in the midst of playoff battle, having somebody like Stephen Jackson to turn to who can come in off the bench using up only a small amount of minutes could certainly help turn contests in their favor. Already one of the deepest teams in the league before the injuries, Jackson can bring that small bit of extra quality, veteran leadership and defensive chops that could help the Clippers out down the stretch. A word of warning must be issued though, as this team is in a precarious position right now. They are edging ever closer to being real championship contenders, and picking up a potentially volatile player like Stephen Jackson could blow up in their faces down the line. So, how do you think this will pan out for the Clippers?