Could Stephen Jackson Revive NBA Career by Joining Houston Rockets?
Stephen Jackson is currently training and hoping to join a contender. I've heard Houston mentioned as a possible landing spot.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) August 12, 2013
Though that's not a whole lot to go on buzz-wise, the scenario makes sense on the face of it. Jackson grew up in Port Arthur, so the Houston area has long felt like home.
There are reasons to doubt whether Jackson can make any kind of sustainable return—especially to a team pursuing a title. The San Antonio Spurs waived Jackson in April just ahead of the club's title push, putting an unceremonious end to an off-and-on relationship that always seemed to work better than it should.
Apparently, the two sides grew to disagree about Jackson's role, which isn't surprising given the extent to which that role diminished between Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
Asked in June if he regretted how things ended, Jackson responded, "Nope, got my money" (per the San Antonio Express-News' Buck Harvey).
While there are two sides to every story, you could forgive front offices around the NBA for viewing Jackson's availability reluctantly. There's a good chance none of this would have happened unless San Antonio sincerely believed Jackson was more trouble than he was worth.
All the same, Jackson can still make an impact.
At least if he finds the right fit, which is where Houston enters the equation.
If there's one thing we learned from Dwight Howard's Orlando Magic years, it's that shooters tend to do well when he's getting touches. Scorers with otherwise limited games like Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson thrived alongside the attention-grabbing big man, frequently finding daylight when defenders helped on Howard.
James Harden also ensured Houston was the NBA's most prolific driving team last season (per Grantland), often racing to the basket with the intent of kicking the ball to an open shooter. An inside-outside approach to getting buckets is an especially fundamental tenet of head coach Kevin McHale's philosophy. Jackson would figure seamlessly into the Rockets' game plan.
How he'd figure into the rotation is a murkier matter.
Houston already has Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi and Reggie Williams to provide James Harden and Chandler Parsons bench support on the wing. With Aaron Brooks and the emergent Patrick Beverley creating the demand for the occasional small backcourt, opportunities for bigger wing players like Jackson would be even fewer and farther between.
Would Jackson make sense from Houston's perspective?
While you could argue that Jackson's an upgrade over Garcia, Casspi or Williams, much depends on how well he's actually playing right now.
That's not a given.
Practically speaking, it's also hard to see how Jackson could secure an opportunity to prove himself. Even if Houston signed him to be Parsons' principal backup, that wouldn't guarantee more than 10 minutes here or there.
There's one variable that could change things, but it would take a while to materialize. Because each of those backup wings signed as a free agent, none can be traded until December 15. So while it's entirely plausible the Rockets could make another deal before the trade deadline, it would require Jackson to wait a while.
And there'd have to be a good reason to make the deal in the first place, something beyond clearing space for Jackson.
Assuming the Rockets somehow find the space, this would be an ideal opportunity for Jackson. Whether he shot well or not, he'd join Marcus Camby as an elder statesman in the locker room, doing the kinds of things veterans do for their teams. That part of Jackson's career has never needed reviving.
All the things that go into making Jackson who he is also make him a loyal and dedicated teammate.
And yet, teams around the league may be justifiably concerned about where his head is. For his part, Jackson said he has "his love back" in an Instagram video made during recent workouts. The fact he was sweating at all was a positive sign after telling a radio station in New York last summer that he didn't work out during the offseason.
That might not raise any alarms if Jackson had demonstrated some proven ability to start clicking at a moment's notice, but he hasn't—especially not over the course of the last two years. He hasn't made 33 percent of his three-point attempts since his 2010-11 season with the Charlotte Bobcats.
If Jackson could earn minutes in Houston, he'd find the looks he needs to turn that shooting around. He may even find the inspiration he needs to turn his career around one more time while he's at it. It won't be an easy road, though, and Jackson won't see the light of the NBA day without a little luck on his side too.
It's good to hear he got his love back, but sometimes that's not all you need.
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