Jackson fine with the pine
By Mark Montieth
July 16, 2004
The debate could rage forever about whether Stephen Jackson is a better player than Al Harrington.
The Indiana Pacers, however, like what they got from the trade they made official Thursday because of the impact Jackson can have on their chemistry -- on and off the court.
Jackson, 26, signed a six-year contract worth about $38 million with Atlanta as a prelude to the trade for Harrington, whose contract calls for $13.3 million over the next two seasons.
The two conducted simultaneous news conferences, Harrington at Philips Arena in Atlanta and Jackson at Conseco Fieldhouse. The trade has the potential to improve both teams and create better opportunities for both players.
Harrington was a combination small forward/power forward, an overcrowded position for the Pacers. Jackson is a combination shooting guard/small forward who addresses their need for perimeter shooting and defense.
Harrington was a six-year reserve who wanted to start and asked for a trade. Jackson is a two-year starter who is willing to come off the bench and wanted to join a winner.
Harrington struggled in the postseason, with the exception of this year's first-round series against Boston. Jackson gained a reputation as a clutch shooter as a starter on San Antonio's championship team two years ago.
Harrington was a first-round pick who made the leap from high school. Jackson was a second-round pick who had to pass through foreign countries and minor leagues, enduring cuts and injuries along the way, to make it to the NBA.
"When you hear him talk, he doesn't say anything about minutes or points," Pacers president Larry Bird said Thursday. "He's always talking about winning."
Jackson, who averaged a career-high 18.1 points for the Hawks last season, will be the only player on next season's roster to own a championship ring, barring another transaction. He not only brings size, energy and athleticism to the backcourt, but also a welcomed apathy toward starting. He reiterated Thursday his willingness to back up Reggie Miller, who is due back for his 18th NBA season.
"Yes," he said emphatically. "My family's secure and I have a ring and I have a chance to win another one. That's what it's about. It's not about starting all the time. When your team wins, you win. When your team gets recognition, you get recognition. One person can't win a game."
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said he hasn't determined who will start.
"That situation will evolve and we'll figure that out as we go along," he said. "But it's great to know that Steve didn't come in here with any conditions. He didn't make any demands.
"The No. 1 thing you'll hear us talking about this year is that it's not about minutes, it's about trying to win."
Jackson also brings Harrington-like charisma, which he put on display frequently during his news conference.
How badly does he want to win another championship?
"Just say I'm from Somalia and I need food," he said.
What's his best position, shooting guard or small forward?
"Both. It's that simple."
What does he know about Indiana?
" 'Hoosiers,' the movie. That's it. I've studied Jimmy's (Chitwood) jump shot and tried to make it mine. All I know is Larry Bird and 'Hoosiers,' that's it."
How will he handle losing?
"I'm going to be the jerk on the team if we're losing. Honestly. I'm going to be a problem in the locker room, everything. But I know this is a winning organization and I want to be a part of it."
Nothing Jackson said surprised Carlisle. He got a taste of Jackson's boyish enthusiasm before the news conference.
"He was just chest-bumping me in the hall," Carlisle said.
Jackson said he will move to Indianapolis in a couple of weeks. Having played for so many teams since leaving high school eight years ago, he has learned to travel lightly. Although he joined the NBA four seasons ago in New Jersey, his list of moveable possessions remains small: two TVs, two cars, a bed and a couch.
"Everything else I can throw in a bag," he said.
After waiting so long to achieve security in the NBA, he said he believes it was meant to be for him to wind up with the Pacers.
"The plan was for me to come here, learn from Reggie and help this team win a championship," Jackson said. "That's what I'm going to do."