The end of a season is always tough, but especially this season
It wasn’t long ago that it looked like Reggie Jackson’s NBA career was over. After signing a five-year, $80 million contract with the Pistons in 2015, Jackson failed to live up to the lofty expectations Detroit had for him. Injuries kept him off the floor for large chunks of time and zapped him of the athleticism that made him a valuable spark plug off the bench as Russell Westbrook’s backup in Oklahoma City. In February 2020, the Pistons reached an agreement to buy out the rest of Jackson’s contract.
That’s when Paul George reached out to pitch Jackson on joining the Clippers. He played 17 regular season games for L.A. and another 12 in the playoffs but he was a free agent at the end of the season and unsure if he would play another NBA game.
But the Clippers took a flyer on him, signing him to a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum of $2.3 million. And it paid off for both sides. Jackson played at a higher level than he had in years, rehabbing his own reputation and giving the Clippers a more-than-capable replacement for Lou Williams and Landry Shamet.
Jackson played an especially significant role for the Clippers in the playoffs, starting 17 of their 19 games and averaging 17.8 points per game (third-best on the team). But L.A.’s playoff run ended on Wednesday night in a loss to the Suns. After the game, an emotional Jackson addressed the media and spoke about how much this season meant to him.
“It was the most challenging year. The most fun year. Not sure when you’re gonna play. Ups and downs. Guys getting injured. Still finding my way in this locker room,” Jackson said. “First thing I told those guys was ‘thank you for saving me.’ I appreciate it. I appreciate every guy in that locker room. I appreciate Paul for getting on that phone last year and the end of the season when I was talking about a buyout with Detroit.
“I’m thankful for everything I’ve experienced here. This city making me feel at home, this organization welcoming me. My quirks, my strengths, my weaknesses. I’m not here today without this team. I’m not still playing without this team. I thank them for everything. In my heart this will forever be a special year. Like I said, it sucks that we didn’t win it, but I ride with those guys. Those guys rode with me all year and I ride with those guys. That’s what makes this one tougher. That makes this one extremely tough. To be the ones that, not getting the win, to be the ones at the end of the season, not the ones hoisting the trophy.
“I think that group revitalized me. They found ways to push me every day, to challenge me, ask me to be better, encourage me to be better. We became family. This has been an extremely special year under these extremely difficult circumstances that everybody’s been under with the pandemic, COVID. Last year at the half, the way this team took me in, the way this core group welcomed me, the way that they’ve allowed me to be myself, like I said, I’m forever thankful for this group.”
It isn’t a stretch to say that Jackson’s season saved his NBA career. He started the season as an afterthought, playing sparingly over the first month before asserting himself as a key member of the roster and later taking his game to another level in the playoffs. He’ll have a job next season, and probably more than the veterans’ minimum.
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