How Waiving Stephen Jackson Impacts San Antonio Spurs' Playoff Rotation
The team-first approach of Gregg Popovich's time-tested system seemed to work in stark contrast with the hot-headed wing man.
Yet the Spurs and Jackson had always found a way to make it work.
Popovich and Jackson's teammates appreciated his effort and intensity (via ESPN). And Jackson was quick to profess his love of the organization that helped build his 13-year career, even when he wasn't suited up in Spurs' attire (via Contra Costa Times).
With postseason play just around the corner, the timing certainly caught the basketball world off-guard, as well as some of his (former) San Antonio teammates (per Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News):
But according to Wojnarowski, this wasn't exactly a sudden development:
Wojnarowski elaborated that Jackson and the Spurs had "disagreements" over his diminishing role with the team.
There was also a belief within the organization that Jackson's negativity was starting to take a toll on some of the team's younger players, something that Green himself seemed to infer, according to McCarney.
If Jackson were disrupting the chemistry, then he had to go.
But now, the onus falls on Popovich to retool his rotation with the players still on hand.
Jackson wasn't a heavy participant for the Spurs all season (19.5 minutes per game) and had been seeing even less action of late (16.1 minutes per game over his last 11 games, via Basketball-Reference.com).
But there are still minutes to be filled, perhaps major minutes, with Manu Ginobili still recovering from a hamstring injury he suffered on March 29. The initial timetable for his return was set at three to four weeks (via NBA.com).
Needless to say, the focus must shift from which players won't be part of the action on to those who will be trying to capitalize on another stellar regular season.
Kawhi Leonard (31.2 minutes per game) and Danny Green (27.6) will both be leaned on heavily to chew up a portion of the available minutes.
But there's only so much room for increases for both players. So Gary Neal might be in line for a major boost. Perhaps, Popovich even opts for some double point guard looks by pairing Tony Parker with either the 6'5" Nando De Colo, or, in spot duty, the 6'3" Cory Joseph.
Don't expect any noticeable changes in Popovich's system, though. Jackson was nothing more than a complementary piece, and the oft-injured Ginobili had seen his second-lowest usage rate (25.2, via Basketball-Reference.com) since 2005-06.
It's a reason for debate and will require Popovich to make more late-season adjustments than he would have wanted to.
In the end, though, this might be nothing more than another reason for the basketball world to overlook this San Antonio squad.
And something tells me that's perfectly fine with Popovich and his players.
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