Jim Jackson, the 6'6" guard from Ohio State who was the fourth pick in the 1992 NBA draft, was to have been the cornerstone of the Dallas Mavericks' future. Dallas management likened Jackson to Oscar Robertson and made room for him by peddling former All-Star Rolando Blackman to the New York Knicks on the day of the draft—a true changing of the guard. But after negotiations that were bungled by both sides, Jackson announced on Dec. 11 that he would not "under any circumstances or at any time" sign with the Mavs. Now, in all likelihood Big D will indeed wind up with a Big O for its No. 1 choice.
No first-round NBA pick has ever sat out an entire season (the Seattle Super-Sonics' Doug Christie, the 17th pick in last summer's draft, is also without a deal). But unless Dallas can somehow sign Jackson or trade his rights to a team that can, he will be eligible for the 1993 NBA draft. While waiting to see which of those fates will be his, JJ says he has fired up 62,000 J's and trained daily with a strength coach. Though Jackson seems unperturbed by the impasse, that veneer may have cracked on Dec. 30 when a 19-year-old driver in Columbus, Ohio, claimed that Inaction Jackson, in another car, showed a gun to him and three other passengers while stopped at a traffic light. No charges have been filed.
So far, almost nothing sane has happened between Jackson and the Mavericks. Dallas majority owner Donald Carter suspended talks for close to three crucial weeks in October after Jackson's agent, Mark Termini, proposed a six-year, $22.8 million contract that included a clause that it be personally guaranteed by Carter. Jackson then felt hurt when, later that month, Carter countered with an offer of a $10.94 million contract that spanned only four years: No other 1992 lottery pick had signed for fewer than five years; the top three picks had each gotten at least six. But Carter, who over years of drafting had acquired more busts than the Louvre, was unwilling to make such a commitment. Not even a batch of chocolate-chip cookies sent to JJ by Carter's wife, Linda, could soothe Jackson's wounded ego. "I didn't set the market, I'm just going by it," the 22-year-old Jackson says. "It's simple as that."
On Nov. 18, Carter tried to sweep Jackson off his feet. He picked up JJ and Termini in his private jet in Columbus, buzzed them over Niagara Falls and made a stunning proposal: a $10.8 million package but with a $6 million bonus and $1 million in salary paid by Dec. 31, or before President-elect Bill Clinton's proposed tax hike could be enacted. Jackson turned the deal down even before the plane had landed.
Since August, G.M. Norm Sonju had been sitting on a six-year, $19 million deal that he wanted to offer to Jackson eventually, but it died with Jackson's Dec. 11 announcement.
Sonju has gotten trade offers—"40- or 60-cent deals on the dollar," he calls them—but says Carter would rather lose Jackson than make a feeble deal to save face. JJ, who has reenrolled at Ohio State, is taking courses in money and management and in Swahili this semester. Seems fitting. To explain how he could turn down $7 million, Jackson might need a new language.