September 30, 2023

Ever ready to walk away from basketball, Reggie Jackson is now 1 win away from the title with Nuggets

DENVER – Nuggets forward Jeff Green got a late steal in the last minute of their Game 4 win, just another veteran doing the little things in this big NBA Finals puzzle.

At that point, another veteran, point guard Reggie Jackson, felt he was in Green’s place and sensed how close the Nuggets are to winning their first NBA title.

“I wasn’t sure I’d ever come back, like I know it’s a great run, but you almost start to believe it, is it for you? You’ve been chasing something for so long, it eluded you. Is it really for you? When he saw him, he had a moment, he couldn’t move,” Jackson told Yahoo Sports on Sunday. “I told him, ‘I lived vicariously through you.’ Myself, [DeAndre Jordan], a few vets, we couldn’t say anything for a few minutes. It’s so close.”

The backup point guard is one win away from his first title – against the team that denied rookie Jackson his first chance at a ring, the Miami Heat in 2012.

“It’s fun to watch different moments in this series, especially the older guys,” Jackson said. ‘It’s starting to work. Guys, we’re so close. We’re not going to give up. We can feel it.”

Denver Nuggets guard Reggie Jackson smiles after a game in an April game at Ball Arena.  (Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports)

Denver Nuggets guard Reggie Jackson smiles after a game in an April game at Ball Arena. (Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports)

Jackson couldn’t have predicted he’d be here, in Denver, let alone the NBA Finals. He started the season with the Clippers, believing they had a good chance to play in June, but he couldn’t have imagined that either.

That was a revival of his darkest days as a professional, as he contemplated retiring during what should have been Jackson’s peak, when all the gifts, sacrifices, and work would come together.

“No, I can’t believe I’m here now,” he said. “Especially after Detroit I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play anymore and then I was brought back to life in LA [with the Clippers]. The build up there, the fun there. If you are then traded, the circle is complete.”

Jackson was ready to leave it all behind. Retire. With years left on his contract, a five-year, $80 million deal he signed in the summer of 2015, Jackson’s relationship with the game deteriorated to the point that his body wouldn’t cooperate.

Nagging ankle injuries wouldn’t go away and he went from being one of the more underrated point guards in the league to an afterthought. After being underutilized at Oklahoma City, he finally began to fulfill his purpose—remember his proud parade on the floor of the Palace of Auburn Hills as the Pistons clinched a playoff spot in 2016—against the Thunder.

During his first 1½ years in Detroit, Jackson averaged 18.5 points and seven assists on nearly 44% shooting. He couldn’t stay on the floor for the next two years, and although he returned in 2018/19 to play all 82 games, the 28-year-old Jackson couldn’t recapture the magic.

His numbers were respectable (14.9 points, 4.8 assists), but fell short of his expectations.

“I didn’t want to do it anymore,” Jackson said. “I couldn’t find the reason to get up and keep pushing and getting better, something I’m passionate about and love to do. But I felt like my body kept failing me.”

A lot of work goes into maintaining the status of a prolific NBA player, let alone continuing to rise. Rehabilitation and his own thoughts became the daily exercises, not lying on the floor.

“I felt like I would never be able to be healthy and compete,” Jackson said. “I feel like I’m letting people down, my teammates, an organization. You know, the coaching staff, who had high hopes and progressed and made progress in Detroit at the time [it] back to the playoffs after being away for so long.

Jackson is an intuitive type. He asks, “How are you?” and then looks before he listens. Being a military brat, living in so many places, having to be the new kid and adapting quickly gave him an extra sense of observation.

“You get used to being uncomfortable, then you become comfortable and uncomfortable. And who you are and how you relate to the world,” Jackson said. “And how you introduce yourself. I think it helps with empathy. You see yourself in many people, for more than who they are. You see the spirit of a person.”

Some days it’s exhausting being so mindful, so he values ​​his alone time, however rare it may be. But when he asks the question, there’s a genuine interest, so even if he can’t handle it, he wants you to know that his energy is where it is, in that moment.

“Many of us just want to be seen. We don’t see each other enough,” Jackson said. “It just takes an extra moment to let someone know they are seen, valued, you matter. It’s funny how much body language says it all.”

During that period, however, Jackson knew he was difficult to get along with. In his own words, he was ‘sulking’. And he was conscious, which made him withdraw even deeper into himself and his own thoughts.

“It was hard to stay positive, really believe I was going to come back and then never get to those marks,” he said. “You try to give as much advice as possible, but [at the] at the same time you have to grow the team without you.

If the game, if the team grew in a different direction, Jackson wouldn’t fight it. He went through the stages of most relationships, negotiating and then looking for a lifeline after being released from the Pistons weeks before the 2020 COVID-19 shutdown.

Paul George, a close friend, helped pull Jackson out of the mud not long after – he saw Jackson. Jackson wasn’t sure if the game loved him again, but he was willing to give it another try. Jackson was grateful, effusive in his praise for team ownership, coaching and teammates in Detroit, some of whom are on the Nuggets roster – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith.

But in Denver, more twisty turns are required.

It’s come full circle in one sense, unfinished business in another – but then again, so are so many places on the Reggie Jackson map. By the time his family settled in Colorado, when Jackson was in high school, he was already living in six places – the only NBA player born in Pordenone, Italy. The nomadic nature of professional sports can provide a sense of familiarity while also yearning for stability.

So when Jackson was traded from Los Angeles for Mason Plumlee on deadline, he was in no great rush to leave yet another place he’d allowed himself to call home. The days went by, as his older brother kept reminding him, to pack his things and get ready for the next place on the Reggie Jackson map.

First home was Oklahoma City, then Detroit and finally Los Angeles. All required life adjustments, not just basketball adjustments – when the waiver by Charlotte resulted in Denver signing him immediately after.

Jackson knew he was still productive and the Nuggets had a good shot at getting this far, but he felt the push and pull again.

Three more days, two more days. The duality of coming home was a source of optimism, but what he left behind made it hard to get out of bed in those
intervening days. He left home, in a new sense.

“Then it came down to the last day, I had to come here for the game, you have to pack,” Jackson said. ‘You have a few hours. It is difficult. I knew mentally that it should be, but I had so much love for the organization, the city and what is being built there. The bonds and everything.’

Reggie Jackson and Paul George embrace during a 2021 game with the Los Angeles Clippers.  (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Reggie Jackson and Paul George embrace during a 2021 game with the Los Angeles Clippers. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

He would have liked to finish what he started, especially his long friendship with George. Those two brought the Clippers within two games of the 2021 NBA Finals, with Jackson averaging 20.3 points in the Western Finals on 46% shooting. But he also wouldn’t have minded seeing them in the second round of the playoffs this season, which didn’t pan out as they were knocked out in five games by the Phoenix Suns – without George for everything and Kawhi Leonard for most part of the match. It.

“I think as you get older you realize everything has a timing,” Jackson said. “Sometimes things take forever. Sometimes not. Sometimes we are here for a season, sometimes we are here for a reason.”

He is about to fulfill the reason, as one of the veterinarians who gives wisdom and inspiration to the young horses who brought the Nuggets to the threshold of history. He hasn’t played as much as he would like, but understands his role at this point.

“I can’t wait until, hopefully, we get this done and then the emotion comes right out,” Jackson said.

From retirement to maybe a ring.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *