The case against trading Stephen Jackson
I’ve been on a kick the last two or three months about the plethora of options Stephen Jackson’s contract unlocks. It’s become a minor obsession of mine (a totally healthy one). And while I do think dealing Jack for a big who can defend the pick-and-roll and/or protect the rim could make the Spurs better in the long run and possibly improve whatever title chances they have, all is not lost if they keep him.
It’s clear from the first few days of media access that one of the points of emphasis for the Spurs defensively is physicality. I wouldn’t venture to call the Spurs of the recent past “soft,” that’s a harsh thing to label a team in professional sports these days, but you wouldn’t think of them as a team that will punish you either. This season, it seems the Spurs are trying to move more in the direction of the latter.
“Buy-in more, be a more physical team, don’t give up layups, we need to be a more physical team,” Jackson said after practice yesterday.
Though he’s not a physically imposing figure on the Spurs roster, it seems the team will be taking their lead from Jack during training camp.
“Tony came to me and said ‘Jack, I’m gonna have more fire this year.'”
More than anything Jack does on the court, this could be the most important. I’ve been watching a lot of the Western Conference Finals the last two weeks, and it’s clear that Jack was the most physical player out on the perimeter. He was constantly bodying-up to Kevin Durant when KD was trying to make his way around the perimeter. We’re talking things like preventing him from getting hand-offs and not letting him take the angle he wanted to take on screens
Certainly that runs the risk of getting important players in foul trouble, what with the lack of physical contact allowed out on the perimeter in today’s NBA, but in big games where the outcome is usually decided by just a handful of points, any possession where the offense doesn’t get free reign becomes important.
With these Spurs, this has become Jack’s identity. He’s the guy who brings the physicality, the attitude, the swashbuckling nature. That kind of presence can infect those around him, but he can’t transfer it to them. If Jack gets traded, the Spurs likely lose that characteristic. More often you read and hear players complain about what they lost in terms of attitude and confidence when a player is shipped off. Rarely do you hear, “We traded him and [some other player] took over as the irrational confidence guy.”
Jack had some big moments in the Western Conference Finals last season and made us all remember why we loved him the first time around (as if we ever forgot). A trade may still be a possibility, but for now this team will try to mold itself somewhat in his image.