An appreciation for Stephen Jackson’s Game 6

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Earlier in the Western Conference Finals, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich reminded his team that this wasn’t supposed to be easy, but nothing could have prepared his team, or its followers, for just how difficult this would be.

Today cuts deep here at 48 Minutes of Hell, as I imagine it has for all of you. In this medium, a team-centered sports blog, I don’t profess to write completely objectively. Only to add rational insight to whatever biases I wear openly.

From that standpoint I suppose there are frustrations to be voiced about the officiating in the fourth quarter, which should not detract from the despair in the very real failings of this team, who allowed it to be a game in the first place. There is depression in the knowledge that there is not another game to be played this season, at least so far as the Spurs are concerned.

It is an emotional time for those of us still allowed to attach our own emotions to our writing. Gathering enough coherent thoughts to give a proper recap proved all but impossible last night, and likely would have proven the same if not for one thing.

Stephen Jackson.

There are hundreds of negative thoughts running through my head, drowning out what will eventually be realized as a very magical season for the San Antonio Spurs. But every time my mind starts going to a dark place, it replays the memory of Jackson loading one of his non-chalant, high-release jumpers and everything is momentarily okay.

That guy was a warrior.

Stephen Jackson was once famously quoted for his affinity for pressure, and the things he did to it last night were unbelievable. With 23 points on 6-7 shooting (all from the three-point line) and 5-6 at the free throw line, Jackson wined and dined pressure all night. He blew sweet nothings in its ear and loving gazes from across the room.

Or at least he did until Joey Crawford and Bill Kennedy reared their heads like two unimpressed, overprotective, shotgun-toting fathers to let him now his gazes would not be tolerated.

But I digress.

His was a performance that is owed its due, and we should applaud.

When the trade was made, many had written off Jackson’s arrival as an opening to give rookie Kawhi Leonard some minutes (which it was) and ultimately bring some financial flexibility (which it will). Few, however, saw it as an upgrade in talent or impact on the floor.

But there is something about Stephen Jackson that has found him a hassle in any number of stops he has made in his NBA career, but nothing but endearing to fans while in a Spurs uniform.

Some of it has to do with the fact that the only association we’ve had previously with Jackson are memories of him hoisting a trophy after hoisting a number of big shots. But mostly I believe it’s our appreciation for his competitive resolve, which is perhaps surpassed only by our own Manu Ginobili.

I first heard about the trade for Jackson in the same manner through which Jackson received the news. Via a missed phone call and then text. And as I imagine Jackson did at discovering the news, an irrationally large smile crept across my face and remained there for most of that day.

I say irrational because how else would you describe that much joy over an overpaid, 30-something year old shooting guard that was, at the time, practically shooting his age from the field and a worse percentage from the three-point line?

But then, there is something unreasonable, and perhaps a little crazy with San Antonio Spurs fans when it comes to Jackson.

He returned to San Antonio with a standing ovation, each three-point attempt accompanied by collective ah’s from the crowd that were at once both electric and nostalgic. I like to think that this stems from his slow but confident release. That the time it takes for him to wind up his shot acts as a tease, allowing the fans time to anticipate the outcome, which they expect more often than not to go in.

It might not be something I can adequately describe, and it’s not something I expect people outside our sect of fans to completely understand.

But it is something that Jackson validated last night with each shot he released. A testament to our faith in a night that otherwise ended in disappointment.

There are a lot of things running through my mind, but for the sake of my sanity, for now, I will focus mostly on the craziest member of the Spurs. If last night ends up being the Spurs last stand at this level of play, I’d like to thank Stephen Jackson for giving me something to remember it by.

 

  • Titletown99030507d

    Timmy didn’t play well in games 3,4,5 , Manu had 1 good game, Parker had 1 good game. Core3 didn’t didn’t play well at the same time for those 3,4, and 5 games so who’s fault is it. Tiago’s?

  • Titletown99030507d

    Basketball is over for me as of now until the Spurs start making moves again.

  • STIJL

     You keep bringing up Joey F’n Crawford.  And each time you do…I just want to puke knowing the Spurs chances of winning are nill when he officiates a Spurs game.  Especially a playoff game.

    You can’t tell me or expect any reasonably sane person to believe the league does not know about the known disdain Crawford has for the Spurs.  Yet the league continues to allow Crawford to officiate Spurs playoff games?  And now Bill Kennedy is getting to be just as bad as Crawford with regards to officiating Spurs games.  That was a one – two punch against the Spurs in that game.

    But championship teams are suppose to be able to rise above ALL diversity in their road to victory…If the Spurs shot better…Played better defense…etc., we wouldn’t have to be so bitterly reminded of these ugly truthful facts about nba officials.

  • Riggies

    “Your either very full of sh%t or you haven’t seen what Tiago does in real minutes. 
    Next.”

    Chill out.  I’ve been around the block a few times and know which way the wind blows.  With a response like yours, I don’t know if you can say the same. 

    I’ve seen Tiago put up 28/12 (or something like that) against the Phoenix Suns but to expect that against OKC is purely wishful basketball. 

  • Riggies

    Besides from stating the obvious, what’s your point?  I didn’t lay out fault for anyone in particular.  We weren’t good enough to win the series (refereeing aside).  If the “big 3″ don’t play well then of course we’re not beating OKC, especially in a 7 game series.    

  • theghostofjh

    The post at that link is completely delusional. You must be as well. 

  • STIJL
  • Irontalon

     As much as it makes sense on paper……Pass.

  • STIJL

    I can appreciate the “appreciate” article as the last thing written.  But how long is the hiatus movement going to be in effect before something else is written?  Is 48MoH perpetually in vacation mode?

  • Lvmainman

    Wow, this blog has quit. Kinda like Pop did to Green.

  • Riggies

    OKC knew exactly what to expect from Green and therefore limited any effectiveness he could provide as this was shown in games 1-4…….and don’t give me “Green’s defense”, resting Parker, etc, etc which I know all of ‘sudden Pop haters’ are now calling out.  Green isn’t a threat off the dribble (other than 1 step back jumper made), was hesitant to shoot and didn’t act like he wanted to go to the basket, as well as he wasn’t a difference maker on defense against the Thunder.  The length of Jackson and Leonard were what the Spurs needed to combat the OKC offense when backs were against the wall.  I believe Pop gave Neal the minutes instead of Green because of his performance in last year’s playoffs, which as a coach, is something I would have considered as well.  Unfortunately there was no repeat this year, especially when we needed it most. 

  • Lvmainman

    Wasn’t a difference maker defensively? What games were you watching? Westbrook shot 34% when Green played and 43% when he didn’t!!!  Not to mention, not playing Green caused Ginobili to Suck in game 6 because Ginobili was exhausted, spent, tired, worn-out, and unable to execute in the 4th qtr because of all the minutes played in Game 5. We’ll never know if Green would’ve made 5 3pt baskets in game 5 at home, where Green felt most comfortable, because Pop refused to play him. I didn’t see Brooks bench Ibaka because they lost 2 games in a row. Why should Pop be so dumb as to bench Green, so Westbrook would have an easier time scoring? So Ginobili would be exhausted for the 4th qtr of game 6? If Pop wanted to limit his minutes from 20 a game to 16, fine. But to go from 20 to 4 is dumb. To bench a starter off of a team that won 20 in a row, just because you lost 2 in a row on the road, IS STUPID!

  • Ananuri

    That is really strange attitude. What means “championship teams are suppose to be able to rise above ALL diversity” ? It’s not like you are playing college team, or bad or mediocre NBA team.  At this stage, you are playing a very good team, your equal, and everything matters. So Thunder played better defense, because referees awarded them 3 bogus offensive calls? Where did this stellar thunder defense gone when Lebron run over Durant and Durant got his 5th fall instead of charge and Lebron got and-1 (loved it, by the way)? League wanted thunder-heat series and they got one. I’m not saying there was a special conspiracy, but you can do a lot to change the direction of the competitive series, like having Joey Crawford officiate the Spurs game. It’s very rare to get pure mismatch today at the conference finals or NBA finals level. So, according to you, 2006 heat was a championship team, because Mavericks could not breath on Wade. Luck plays a lot during these games. 2005 Spus were championship team, but they are not wining the title if Rasheed Wallace stays with Horry instead of doubling Ginobili. 
    I guess I just want to say that games are what they are, sometimes there is huge mismatch (like Lakers and Nets in 2000, or Spurs and Cleveland in 2007), but in most cases it’s not. In evenly matched series everything matters – calls that go your way for any reason (like this series), lucky shots you made (Horry in 2005, Fisher in 2004), and so on. yes, thunder won this series, but I do not think that they were better than this Spurs team – all their players were on fire at right time (I have never seen thunder playing that well – Ibaka going 11 of 11?), and despite that, they needed a lot of help from officials to put that series away.

  • Riggies

    “Wasn’t a difference maker defensively? What games were you watching?
    Westbrook shot 34% when Green played and 43% when he didn’t!!”

    If Green played more in game 5 it would have wasted Ginobili’s best game of the season (34 pts right?).  So, taking those minutes awayfrom a future HOF player in game 5 to play an unproven NBA commodity that is Danny Green (yes, 1 ok season does not make him a proven player) doesn’t make any sense.  I don’t know what makes everyone think that Green/Splitter would have made this series closer in any way?  These two were NOT ready for the OKC thoroughbreds!!  SA is 1 big man short of being better than OKC.  The Thunder beat us and were better. 

    I watched every dribble……..Westbrook’s #’s you mentioned (if they are even correct) aren’t attributed to Green’s defense.  Westbrook’s MO is to out-shoot himself regardless of who’s guarding him.  Parker actually did the best defensive work on Westbrook anyhow with his 3/4 court pressure.

    Westbrook can do whatever he wants against any defender in the league and Green was not going to even slow him down.  IMO, the Thunder played better when Westbrook wasn’t “on” anyway. 

    “Why should Pop be so dumb as to bench Green, so Westbrook would have an easier time scoring?”

    He benched Green so the best 5 combos would be on the court when it counted.  Parker, Ginobili, Duncan, Jackson, Leonard.  I wouldn’t have trusted any other unit. 

  • lvmainman

    Mario Chalmers was 2 for 18 before last night. By Pop’s standard’s that means that he should’ve been benched and Mike Miller or James Jones should have started. And those 25 points shouldn’t have happened. Would Danny Green have scored 25? I doubt it, but we never got the opportunity to find out. That’s the perfect example of a coach believing in his player vs Pop, who quit on Green.

  • Riggies

    Really, this far after the fact? You’re comparing apples and oranges man. Lebron James is the great equalizer, the Spurs don’t have one and you’re trying too hard to make your point if you don’t see this. Aside from that fact, Chalmers had proved his worth last season in a finals run, Green hasn’t.