Interview: D-League Sensation Pierre Jackson Talks NBA Dreams
Pierre Jackson is the highest-scoring NBA player not actually in the NBA.
Selected 42nd overall by the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2013 draft, Jackson leads the NBA Developmental League in scoring among players who have appeared in at least 20 games. On Tuesday, Feb. 4, the Idaho Stampede star poured in 58 points during a 136-122 victory over the Texas Legends, setting a new D-League record.
Despite that 58-point outburst and pitching in 29.1 points per game on the season, Jackson remains in the D-League, waiting for an opportunity to showcase his ability on an NBA stage.
The Pelicans own his draft rights, but Jackson is not under contract. New Orleans has thus far refused to call him up, and while USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt confirmed Jackson and his agent, Colin Bryant, have been given the go-ahead to explore trade possibilities, nothing appears imminent.
"I actually haven't talked to them personally—anybody from the Pelicans—in awhile," he tells Bleacher Report by phone while in New Orleans for the D-League All-Star Game.
Uncertainty has dogged him all season, but it hasn't stopped him. Where some may have folded, the 5'11" Jackson stands strong, still chasing an NBA dream that's so close, yet so far.
"I'm just trying to represent myself on the court and off the court," he says. "If there's some big move, I know he'll [my agent] tell me about it."
Until some big move or abrupt change, Jackson plays on, scoring and passing, focused and of sound mind, hopeful that all he's doing now will pay off later.
On Playing Through Uncertainty
Bleacher Report: What’s been most frustrating about this entire process, knowing you’re playing so well but haven’t been called up yet?
Pierre Jackson: Just knowing that I have a chance to provide for my family. That's probably about it. I love the game and all, but this is my job, this is my life. I don't come from a wealthy family at all whatsoever. I'm from a tough neighborhood growing up. My grandma was the person to take care of me and I just want to be able to take care of her and her hospital bills and stuff like that, and give back to my family.
B/R: What would you say has allowed you to continue playing at such a high level despite this situation with the Pelicans?
PJ: Basketball is my life. I do this to keep my mind off of things. If I'm playing well, it's going to make it that much better for my mind. I just keep my mind off other stuff when I'm playing basketball.
On Transitioning to D-League
B/R: What’s been most difficult about making the transition from college to the NBA D-League?
PJ: Just the speed and talent. There are a lot of NBA-caliber guys in the NBA D-Leauge and they're all hungry for a call-up, trying to make it to that next level. So, just the talent and the speed. You're getting a lot more shots up as a team in a game. So, just the speed and the talent really.
B/R: Is there a current NBA player you modeled your game after, or maybe one that’s significantly influenced you?
PJ: There's three of them. I watch a lot of Nate Robinson, of course, and Isaiah Thomas and Jameer Nelson. Those three guys.
On Early Success
B/R: It’s common knowledge at this point the Pelicans didn’t expect you to develop this quickly. Coming out of Baylor, did you envision yourself playing so well this soon?
PJ: I wouldn't say I envisioned myself playing this well, but I knew I was going to do pretty well if I went to the D-League. I think my game really translates to the NBA game a lot, just being so fast and being able to just attack and get to spots on the floor almost anytime I want. So, I thought I was going to be pretty good, but I didn't know I was going to be playing as well as I have been.
B/R: What would you say have been the biggest keys to your early success?
PJ: Just staying positive and being patient and staying hungry, and not being content with what I've been doing and what I've accomplished. I'm still trying to make people...I'm still trying to prove people wrong. That's my whole motivation.
On Setting D-League Scoring Record
B/R: What did it mean for you to set the D-League scoring record?
PJ: That's a huge accomplishment. I'm at the top when it comes to the scoring with the record; I'm in the history books as of now. It's kind of a big deal. I'm grateful that I got a chance to do that, but without my teammates and without the coaches it wouldn't have been possible. I'm just happy I'm able to be part of such a great team this year.
B/R: What would you say is the most underrated aspect of your game right now?
PJ: My passing ability. I can distribute the ball. People who haven't heard of me only know about my scoring. They think, "He's just getting shots up; he's just shooting." That's not the point at all. I can distribute the ball. Whenever [people] get a chance to watch me, I want them to know that I'm a capable passer as well.
On Moving Forward
B/R: Have any current NBA players contacted you with some insight or advice, or even just reached out to offer their support?
PJ: Plenty of them have, especially after my 58-point game. Isaiah Thomas, Nate Robinson reached out to me, and that's always helpful.
B/R: What would it mean to finally get the chance to showcase your talents at the NBA level, outside of the D-League?
PJ: I think I could help a team out. It would mean the world to me. It would mean the world to me and my family for somebody to actually give me the chance to do this. Whenever it happens, I'm going to be ready for it.