LOS ANGELES – Returning to the game he loves and the team he considers family, Spurs guard-forward Stephen Jackson suited up on Thursday for the first time since learning last week that his wife, Renata, had lost the child she had been carrying for six-and-a-half months.
Though Jackson said nothing can salve the pain of losing a child that would have been the first for the couple, who married in 2011, he believes playing basketball and being around teammates will be therapeutic.
“I’m as good as I can be,” Jackson said before Thursday’s Spurs-Clippers game at Staples Center. “I’m happy to be back with the team. I need to be back with the team, just for my own sanity. Basketball and being around these guys helps me a lot, so it’s definitely something I needed.”
Jackson learned of the loss while the Spurs were on the first phase of the rodeo road trip. He left the team after it arrived in Chicago for a game on Feb. 11, missing games in Chicago, Cleveland and Sacramento. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told Jackson to take as much time away from the team as he needed.
“It was an unfortunate situation,” he said, “very frustrating and emotional and I’m nowhere close to being over it.
“My wife is not doing too well, so I’m happy I had a coach like Pop who gave me the time to be with her. In order for me to help her I also have to help myself because this was a baby we were definitely looking forward to having. Being back with the team hopefully is going to help me be able to help my wife even more.”
Jackson said daily phone calls from Spurs captain Tim Duncan and support from other members of the Spurs family, from owner Peter Holt to general manager R.C. Buford and broadcaster Sean Elliott, have helped him cope.
“The family atmosphere of this organization is one of a kind,” he said. “Luckily, I’m on this Spurs team while I’m going through this situation because it’s definitely helpful being around these guys.”
Leonard sits: Staring small forward Kawhi Leonard was held out of Thursday’s game because of soreness in his left knee, a recurrence of an issue that kept him out of 16 games earlier this season.
Popovich said the decision to sit Leonard was precautionary.
“We’re a little concerned about overplaying him right now with that knee,” he said. “We’ll probably get it looked at when we get back into (San Antonio). We don’t think it’s anything structural. In the last MRI there was nothing structural but he’s had a good amount of pain and stiffness so we’re going to make sure we’re not doing anything that would keep him from playing heavy minutes come playoff time.”
Popovich has not ruled Leonard out of Friday’s game in Oakland against the Warriors.