Stephen Jackson should seemingly not have been so happy when the Golden State Warriors granted his wish and traded him to the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Warriors were 3-6 and the Hornets were 3-7 on Monday when the trade was completed with the veteran guard being swapped along with point guard Acie Law for forward Vladimir Radmanovic and guard Raja Bell. Yet Jackson insists he has moved into a better situation, even though the Bobcats have yet to make the playoffs since joining the NBA as an expansion team in 2004.
“I know the effort and attitude is there,” Jackson said. “Anytime you have a guy running the team like (Bobcats general manager) Rod Higgins, whom I know well and is the reason I went to Golden State, you know the guys on his coaching staff and team are going to be competitors and want to win. Those are the type of people I want running a team I play for. I don't belong being at home at the end of April, watching the playoffs. I belong in the playoffs and I have a good chance here with a great team, a team that competes, and the type of coach (Larry Brown) I like and who has your back.”
Jackson sealed his fate with the Warriors last week when his agent ripped coach Don Nelson in an ESPN.com story. It is clear Jackson’s bitterness toward the Warriors has not ended with the trade.
“We made history by beating Dallas in the first round (in 2007) and it was the first time the Warriors had been in the playoffs in 13 years,” said Jackson, referring to Golden State becoming the third No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1 seed. “Then things started getting worse and winning stopped being a priority. Once winning stopped being a priority, I didn't want to be a part of it. It started when we got rid of Jason Richardson and then the next thing you know, it was Baron (Davis). And then it was Al Harrington and Matt Barnes. The team that we had when we made that run that beat Dallas in the first round went south. Once it started doing that, I didn't want to be a part of it.”
The addition of Jackson makes the Bobcats a guard-heavy team. They have six guards, including four who play the point, and a swingman in Stephen Graham. The Bobcats also have undersized power forwards in Boris Diaw and Gerald Wallace. That has led to speculation Law’s stint with the Bobcats could be short-lived as he might be used as trade bait for a four.
Jackson comes to the Bobcats with baggage, including his participation in the Pistons-Pacers brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills five years ago and a gun incident outside a strip club in Indianapolis. That flies in the face of owner Bob Johnson’s promise when the Bobcats entered the league that his players would never do anything to embarrass Charlotte.
Jackson has a defender in LeBron James. The superstar was hoping his Cavaliers would be able to swing a trade with the Warriors. The two team talked before the Warriors dealt with the Bobcats.
“I’m a big fan of Jack,” James said. “I’m all for guys coming to this team, no matter who they are, as long as they are productive to our team and represent what we represent and that's a willing mentality. Stephen Jackson could really help us. I think they got a really good player. I was looking forward, if it would happen, for him coming here.
“I don't judge a book by its cover. Whatever happened in someone's past, there's no reason for me to put that in their future. When they get here, I don't judge what they've gone through before.”
With Jackson, gone, the Warriors become Monta Ellis’ team, though the point guard told the Oakland Tribune he does not want to be the face of the franchise.
“I'm not (going to) put no more on my back,” he said. “Somebody else gonna have to step up. I'm not gonna do more.”
Ellis, though, has done more. He played 45:49 in a 114-108 loss to the Cavaliers on Tuesday night and had 23 points, eight assists and three steals. The following night, he logged 40:23 and finished with 18 points, four assists and three steals in a 109-95 loss to the Celtics.
Ellis’ biggest beef this season has been sharing the backcourt with another point guard, rookie Stephen Curry. Bell would seemingly rectify that situation as he is noted more for his defense but, at the Warriors’ request, he will have elbow surgery today. The surgery could cause Bell to miss the rest of the season and end his Warriors’ career as he is eligible for free agency in July.
However, Bell begged Nelson to let him play in at least one game before the surgery and he wound up logging 23:09 against the Celtics as he had 11 points and three assists. The Warriors had only nine healthy players for that game.
“That showed a lot,” Warriors guard Anthony Morrow said. “He wanted to be right there with his teammates and that's a reflection of the kind of guy he is.”
Bell wanted to set a good example to his new team, which has wracked by dissension all season.
“It’s hard to sit there and watch when you know a team is as undermanned as we are,” Bell said. “It wasn't done for any other reason than I wanted to help. I felt like I had a responsibility.”
New York Eyes Iverson
The New York Knicks are 2-9 and realistically should start looking ahead to next season as they seem to have no shot at making the playoffs this season. However, the Knicks have interest in signing Allen Iverson now that the veteran guard cleared waivers Thursday after being let go by the Grizzlies.
It seems odd, on the surface, for a troubled team to pursue a player who walked out on his last team. However, the Knicks want to have a respectable record in 2009-10 so they are somewhat attractive to high-profile free agents such as James and the Heat’s Dwayne Wade next summer.
That being the case, the Knicks plan to offer Iverson a contract for the $1.4 million minimum that would expire at the end of this season in order to leave as much salary cap room as possible for 2010-11.
“Whatever it takes to make us competitive right now, I think we'll do as an organization but we’re not going to mess up 2010,” Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. “We've come too far to mess that up.”
Iverson had 102.0 Offensive Rating in 54 games with the Pistons last season but the Knicks believe the 34-year-old still has something to offer.
“I think it would help things because you've got a guy who's a proven scorer, probably a Hall of Famer,” Harrington said. “He can only do positive things for the team, especially in the situation that we're in right now.”
Adding Iverson would seemingly impede the progress of some of the Knicks’ young players, who would lose minutes. However, team president Donnie Walsh believes Iverson could help the youngsters.
“If they're not getting it done the way they are, maybe they could benefit by having a guy that can show them how to get it done,” Walsh said. “This would be a move to make it better for the young players to learn.”
Brown, who coached Iverson with the 76ers, has been making calls to other clubs on behalf of his old player.
“If we had a need for him, if he could be one of our (top) three guards, I wouldn't hesitate to sign him but we don't have that right now,” Brown said. “My goal is that somebody else might realize what he can bring.”
Iverson’s quick departure puts the Grizzlies in a bind on the marketing side. Their promotion campaign this season is “Answer the Call” as a play on Iverson’s nickname. They also planned to give away 3,000 Iverson jerseys as a promotion for the Dec. 4 game with the Mavericks at the FedEx Forum.
Williams Likes Talent in Orlando
Orlando Magic point guard Jason Williams played on the 2006 Heat team that won the NBA championship. He believes the 2009-10 Magic are even better.
“I’ve said it from the day I got here, that this team is more talented,” Williams said. “There are just more weapons here.”
Williams will be counted on to distribute the ball to those weapons after starting point guard Jameer Nelson had arthroscopic knee surgery Wednesday and will miss at least a month. So far, the Magic has proven to be resilient. Orlando has used eight lineups in their first 12 games yet is 9-3.
Williams sees no reason why the Magic can’t continue winning with such stars as Vince Carter, Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis in the lineup.
“Having all these guys, it just makes my job easier,” Williams said. “You get them the ball and you get them the shots they like. In Miami, we had a go-to guy (Wade) down the stretch. Here you have a bunch of them. There are just more options.”
Strong Start for Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder is off to a 6-6 start. While playing at a .500 clip in 12 games might not seem like a big deal, it is compared to last season when the Thunder started 3-29 on to the way to 23-59 finish during the franchise’s first year in Oklahoma City.
“We wanted to start off playing basketball that our fans could be proud of,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We are creating an identity of playing winning basketball. I wouldn't use the word happy but I like what we've done. We went into training camp and focused on defense and I see that being pretty consistent.”
The Thunder is seventh in the league with a 100.4 Defensive Rating. Because of that, forward Nick Collison believes his team can continue to win games.
“Just because we're .500, which is solid, our start was so bad last year we might be getting a little too much credit for .500,” Collison said. “I think .500 is pretty realistic for this team.”
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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