In fact, his troubles started before a basketball touched the hardwood in a regular season game. During the summer, unhappy with the criticisms he was receiving from Golden State Warriors head coach Don Nelson and eager to win a championship, Jackson announced to the world that he wanted out of Golden State.
After that, in a couple of month time span, Jackson said: a) that he was not a role model for young kids or younger players in the league, b)that he did not want to be a team captain for Golden State, and c) that he was as good of a basketball player as Kobe Bryant.
Naturally, these things led many to believe Jackson was crazy, thus making him a tough player to acquire with all the baggage he carries as a possible poison in a contender’s locker room.
Several teams inquired about Jackson, most notably Cleveland, but, in the end, Jackson ended up being dealt to the Charlotte Bobcats for Raja Bell and Vladimir Radmanovic.
Immediately, the impact Jackson had on the team was minimal. Jackson was taking too many shots and wasn’t fitting in too well with Charlotte’s offensive scheme. Perhaps this was to be expected from most players that switch teams mid-season, especially when you go from the fastest paced offense in the NBA in Golden State to one of the slowest paced teams in the league in Charlotte (28th out of 30). The difference between the two squads is equally as large on the defensive end, where the Bobcats rank 2nd compared to Golden State’s 26th ranked defensive squad.
For those reasons, Jackson was kind of a lost art in Golden State. Most people assumed that Jackson was only scoring at such a high rate because of the pace the Warriors played at, which featured Jackson either getting easy buckets in transition or jacking up jumpers because, well, that’s what the system calls for. If you believed that, you probably didn’t think that Jackson’s offensive game would be able to flourish for a team like Charlotte.
Well, that has been far from the case. After struggling to fit in during his first few games, Jackson has come on in the past two months of play, scoring 22 points a game on 43% shooting with five boards and three assists a contest. Jackson is still susceptible to having off nights shooting the ball, but he has become a nice fit within the offense, getting to the basket to finish at the rim when his shot isn’t falling.
As good of a job as Jackson has done merging into the offense, what is paying dividends for the Bobcats is his defense. After playing on a team that hid his defensive abilities, Jackson is now proving that, as a 6-foot-8 guard/forward, he has all of the tools to play successful defense. Playing under one of the best defensive coaches in basketball, Larry Brown, who is well versed when it comes to dealing with volatile stars thanks to his time with Allen Iverson, Jackson has helped become a very important key in the league’s second best defense.
With another super athlete in Gerald Wallace playing alongside him at the small forward spot, Jackson is using a lot of energy to close out on shooters and is gambling just enough for steals without making bad decisions. Jackson and Wallace, as well as Raymond Felton, Boris Diaw and any of Charlotte’s centers usually combine to make a sturdy defensive unit.
Jackson has made the transition from a perceived lazy player on both ends of the floor to a average to above average offensive player that earns every penny on the defensive end. He fights around screens, denies opposing team’s best players and can even take on bigs in the post because of his length and quick feet.
While it may not be the most reliable barometer of individual success translation into team success for any given player, win shares really speak to the point for Jackson this season. So far, Jack has 2.4 win shares in 34 games for the Bobcats (his career high is 4.8 way back in 2002-2003 for the Spurs in 80 games). The difference between this season and all of Jackson’s years in Golden State is that 2.2 of his win shares this season have come on the defensive end (To put this in perspective, Ron Artest only has 1.9 defensive win shares so far this season while Thabo Sefolosha, who I named as a defensive player of the year candidate, has 2.1). In that 2002-2003 season, under the helm of Gregg Popovich, Jackson had 3.6 defensive win shares, and in 2005-2006 as a Pacer, Jackson had 3.9 defensive win shares (from 2006-2009, Jackson 3.2 defensive win shares combined for Golden State). At his current pace, Jackson should finish the season with a career high 4.6 defensive win shares thanks to his added devotion and commitment to playing D.
Thanks to Jackson’s presence, Gerald Wallace, who already has 6.7 win shares this season (3 offensive, 3.7 defensive) has been able to showcase his abilities to block shots as a help side defender, knowing full well that Jackson is quick enough and long enough to close out on his man should he leave him open.
Which, in turn, opens up a plethora of things for Charlotte as a whole, both offensively and defensively. The Bobcats have won seven of their last ten, putting them at 22-22 on the year, good enough for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. With Jack’s continued effort on the defensive end, their record should continue to grow, possibly pushing into double-digits above .500. Now, you may say that having an above .500 record in the East is not an accomplishment but it is. Charlotte is one of the 10 youngest teams in the NBA, a little bit of payroll to use, and one of the best defensive bases you will find in this day and age.