An appreciation for Stephen Jackson’s Game 6
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.
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.