(From the mouthpiece)
Listen up! Pacers newcomer Jackson will speak his mind
By Mark Montieth
October 19, 2004
The loudest voice in the Indiana Pacers' locker room following their win at Memphis on Saturday belonged to the new guy who looks like he has been around forever.
Stephen Jackson, dressing in the cubicle next to Reggie Miller's, listened as Miller joked with rookies about their upcoming talent show in the annual FanJam at Conseco Fieldhouse. He listened to the rookies playfully challenge some of Miller's warnings, then joined in the exchange.
"Hey, this is Reggie Miller speaking!" he shouted with mock anger. "You don't ask him any questions; you just do what he tells you!"
For Jackson, that was a typical lighthearted moment following what has been a typical heavy-duty performance. The swingman acquired from Atlanta in a July trade for Al Harrington has shown a knack for causing commotion. So far most of it has been desirable, which fans can see for themselves tonight when he makes his preseason home debut as a Pacer against Minnesota.
Jackson has averaged 18 points on 54 percent shooting in the first two preseason games, displaying a varied offensive game that fits and motivates coach Rick Carlisle's shift toward a more open and balanced offense.
His explosive skills were on display in a 21/2-minute spurt early in the second quarter of Saturday's victory at Memphis when he scored on four consecutive possessions. He started with a driving left-handed layup off a crossover dribble, then followed with a 3-pointer behind Scot Pollard's screen, added two free throws after drawing a foul while driving hard off a pick to his left, and hit another 3-pointer off a deflected pass.
Jackson is susceptible to rushing shots, and he has just 26 more assists than turnovers in his four NBA seasons. But his energetic, emotional nature could have great value for the Pacers.
"One thing you wouldn't call Steve Jackson is bashful," Carlisle said. "To this point he's made his presence here completely about raising the level of practices and winning. He just wants to win so bad. That's a great quality to have in a new player in our situation."
Jackson fits with the Pacers on many levels. He grew accustomed to winning when he started on San Antonio's championship team two seasons ago, so after a year of exile in a 28-win season in Atlanta, he is thrilled to be back with a contending team. He also is in sync with the team's leaders. He knew Jermaine O'Neal and Ron Artest, and he has bonded quickly with Miller.
Jackson is playing for his fourth NBA team, and was in training camp or a summer league with several NBA teams while trying to make the jump from high school. He's played for two CBA teams and a few teams in other countries, too. By now he's well-versed at finding a niche, although it seems to come naturally.
"That's just his personality," Artest said. "He's a good guy."
Jackson has done more than fit in, however. He leads a team prayer before games and hasn't held back words or actions in any environment.
"That's just me," he said. "I don't bite my tongue. I go out and play with a lot of passion and I try to spread that passion to my teammates."
Jackson promised at his introductory news conference in July to be "the biggest jerk in the locker room if we're losing." His bravado, and the ability to back it up that he displayed in San Antonio by hitting clutch shots in the playoffs, should be a welcome addition on a team that couldn't match Detroit's boldness in the Eastern Conference finals last season.
His new teammates, meanwhile, have accepted him because he brings instant credibility. He has something they don't, a championship ring, and he has proven the sincerity of his intentions by willingly coming off the bench after starting the past two seasons.
None of this surprises Pacers associate head coach Mike Brown, who nurtured Jackson's development when both were in San Antonio. Brown saw the same thing happen with the Spurs. There, Jackson earned respect, whether he was finding a niche with Tim Duncan and David Robinson or speaking out in an offseason pickup game.
One of Brown's lasting memories is of watching Jackson in Houston, where the Spurs took players for summer games. If the complaining and trash-talking got out of hand, Jackson would grab the ball, stop the game and confront someone.
"He'd say, 'Who are you talking to? Because if you're talking to me, we've got to get this straight,' " Brown recalled.
"He's not afraid of anything."
Call Star reporter Mark Montieth at (317) 444-6406.[/b]