The ex-factor: Once-again Spur Stephen Jackson

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AT&T CENTER–Whether this be a quick fling with an old flame, or something more substantial, for at least one game Stephen Jackson regaled the AT&T Center with a trip down memory lane.

Jackson checked into his first playoff game back with the San Antonio Spurs at the 5:28 mark of the first quarter, and between the big rebounds, a few deflections, and some timely shooting, it was like it was 2003 all over again.

But then, Stephen Jackson has always had a sense of the moment.

When he left after helping the Spurs win their second championship it was just at the right time for both parties.

A fan favorite in the Alamo city for his tough game and rough edges, Jackson is like the crazy old flame we looked back fondly upon simply because they left before their real crazy bubbled to the surface. Jackson needed to find his way in the NBA and the leg room needed simply wasn’t available in San Antonio.

Stephen Jackson became Captain Jack, a star and leader on other teams, albeit one that wore out his welcome in several places. The Spurs won several championships. The mutual success each enjoyed left little thought to the what ifs, and framed that 2003 season as simply a nice memory.

“Everybody has their own road, and everything I’ve been through has made me stronger; A smarter guy, a smarter player,” Jackson said. “I appreciate the good and the bad, but just being back here is sweet. To hear those fans and to have this jersey on is definitely special.”

Crossing paths once again, the Spurs and Jackson better realize the value each had in the other. And though the future between the two remains questionable, if nothing else this dance has proven to rekindle a lost spark.

“He was really good tonight. He got some big boards, some important buckets, getting fouls drawn,” Manu Ginobili said. “We needed his competitiveness and toughness and he brought it today.”

In a series in which the Utah Jazz figured to be the bigger, more physical team, the Spurs’ former ex could prove to be the biggest x-factor.

During the last few weeks of the season the Utah Jazz had stormed into the eighth seed behind their big lineup of Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, and Paul Millsap. Over small stretches the trio managed to put up large numbers and multiple wins.

Headed into the series there were some questions about how problematic this lineup might be given the Spurs apparent size deficiencies.

But if going big was indeed the Jazz trump card, it was rendered somewhat irrelevant in part because the Spurs wild card.

When the Spurs inserted Favors for Josh Howard in the third quarter the Spurs held a nine-point lead. And at the quarter’s end, despite playing a large stretch with the Matt Bonner-DeJuan Blair combination that proved so troublesome last year, the Spurs extended that lead to 15.

There are several reasons that make the lineup a poor fit against the Spurs, and one of them undoubtedly is Jackson’s ability to make this lineup pay with his offense while not being physically overwhelmed on the other end.

And if Matt Bonner can stay on the court long enough to hit a couple three-pointers and swing a game, it’s in part because Jackson’s ability to help defensively and on the boards hides some of Bonner’s weaknesses.

“It’s going to be a war the whole series on the boards. I thought we did a good job rebounding, especially Stephen Jackson,” Tony Parker said. “He was huge on the boards. It’s going to be that way for us  and all the smalls need to help.”

Since his departure the Spurs have primarily filled Jackson’s shoes with a standstill three-point shooter and generic defender. The sort that a big lineup such as this could render irrelevant with nothing but a hard closeout.

For better or worse, Jackson has never had trouble with staying invisible. He’s the first in the pile, and the last to leave it. He’s a bridge between the old Spurs and new, and between their frontline and backcourt.

Most importantly Stephen Jackson is back in the playoffs famously romancing pressure, and for now the Spurs love him for it.

  • DaveMan

    You might call me crazy but the best thing since Jack is back that I noticed is Timmy’s dunks have have been way more ferocious. Also his production is just way more visible because of the lack of production from Jefferson. If the Spurs do win it all this year Jack will play a big part in it. And we all will look back at it and say we got Stephen Jackson for Richard Jefferson. I’m just saying the basketball gods were looking out for the SA Spurs on that one.

  • SpurredOn

    Watching the subtleties of Cpt Jack shows what RJ didn’t do as much as what Jackson brings. Putting his shoulder or hip into cutters. battling for rebonds, driving into the defense and getting to the FT line. He brings a chippiness that is necessary in the playoffs.

  • ThatBigGuy

    While we have a bunch of great players on our roster, no one has a bigger pair than Jack. He’s such an improvement over Jefferson in everything outside of points and rebounds. He just adds an eff you attitude to the team every time he hits the floor. Most of the guys on the team know they’re good, but Jack just has a swagger about him, and he has a great sense of the moment. Picking him up was a good move in general, but trading him for Jefferson was well worth the first round pick. We got better as a team and saved money in the long run.

    Just another great move for the FO.

  • ChrisTx

    Plain and simple this man and Manu when they both enter the game for our bench it gives us on hell of a MOJO!

    ¸.¤*¨¨*¤.¸¸…¸.¤*¨¨*¤.
    \¸ GO SPURS GO & Pacquiao
    .\¸.¤*¨¨*¤.¸¸.¸.¤*¨¨*¤.
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  • TheRealDirtyP1

    There are 4 players still active in the NBA from the 2003 Spurs championship roster. They all played together again yesterday and didn’t miss a beat. Their averages then:
    Pts-Reb-Ast
    Duncan 25-15-5
    Parker 15-3-3
    Jackson 13-4-3
    Ginobili 9-4-3
    Total 62-26-14
    Sunday:
    Duncan 17-11-5
    Parker 28-4-8
    Jackson 14-4-2
    Ginobili 7-3-4
    Total 66-22-19

    I like what I’m seeing! I don’t know if TP can average 28, I think 17ppg will stick, Manu will up his numbers and SJ will come in around 10ppg in this series.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/BurkhartBrandon Brandon Burkhart

    At the time of the trade, many misguided fans pointed out that Jefferson had better stats this year than Jackson. The deeper we go into the postseason, the sillier those number-crunchers are going to feel, because I guarantee you Jack will turn around a few games with the kind of tough, gritty plays that RJ would have been too much of a softie to pull off.

  • JJ

    Good read. Jackson, for me, is the ultimate eyeball test guy. When his numbers were compared to Jefferson’s immediately after the trade was made, it was believed, widely or not, that Jackson was not a legitimate upgrade due to the statistical comparison between he and Jefferson. Any Spurs fan that remembers what Jackson brought to this team during our second championship run knew he was an immediate upgrade over Jefferson. His toughness, rebounding, defensive versatility, are just a few things that Jefferson never brought. They are just two different players regardless of what the statistics say about their current games. Jack’s ability to rebound, especially if Splitter is out for any real length of time, and defend other team’s 3’s and 4’s is just absolutely huge for us. Jefferson never really fit in here, most Spurs fans feel this way I think, but Jackson is just the type of player that we need during this playoff run. Keep up the good work. Go Spurs Go!

  • JJ

    Brandon, apologies for making a few of the same points you did in the post just prior to mine. Spurs minds think alike, I suppose.

  • Colin

    Any word on Splitter’s injury?

  • Bob

    @JJ

    Jefferson really needs to be the top 1-2 option on the team and/or a score first point guard to do well.

  • Francisco Guajardo

    what the word on Splitter?

  • DorieStreet

    Jackson’s game and contributions will become increasingly important/increase with each game as the Spurs progress in the playoffs. His intangibles will come through when/if the squad lays an egg in this current series or in the next round.