By Bobby Kirschenbaum
As the MVP conversation begins to heat up in the NBA, names like Curry, Harden and Westbrook take center stage. With such dominant performances coming from these players on a nightly basis, playing time for other talented players on their teams is very limited, as the opportunities for these backups to showcase their skills are sporadic. One of these supremely talented players happened to be Reggie Jackson, who had served as Russell Westbrook’s backup for his entire career on the Oklahoma City Thunder up until his recent trade to the Detroit Pistons.
During his tenure on the Thunder, Jackson saw limited playing time as Westbrook rose to stardom in the league. In his 4 seasons in Oklahoma City, Jackson averaged a mere 9.0 points per game to go along with just three assists and three rebounds per game. To be fair, numbers like these should be expected when a player like Jackson only averages 21.1 minutes per game, which barely gives him enough time to get into the groove of the game.
Nevertheless, when games mattered most like in the playoffs, Jackson rose to the occasion and delivered for his team. When Westbrook didn’t come up clutch for his team during last year’s playoffs, Jackson assumed a savior role in propelling his team to victory. When Westbrook couldn’t buy a basket in the Thunder’s series against the Grizzlies during the playoffs last year, Jackson took over and single handedly carried the Thunder to victories during the series, even scoring a career best 32 points in game 4. Jackson knew all too well that he earned more minutes than the Thunder were providing him. He became increasingly frustrated as time went on and his minutes continued to be limited. While his time was limited, so was his patience, as Jackson ultimately requested a trade. His wish was finally granted on February 19 as he packed his bags to go play for the Detroit Pistons.
For some players, this trade could mean going from a title-contending team to one that is losing for the lottery; for others, it could mean becoming the star of a young and upcoming team that’s looking for the face of its franchise. For Jackson, it was certainly the latter, as he became the major player in a three-team blockbuster trade that shook the NBA.
In the trade, the Thunder received center Enes Kanter, point guard DJ Augustine, forward Kyle Singler, forward Steve Novak, and two future draft picks, and the Jazz received center Kenderick Perkins, forward Grant Jerrett, and a future draft pick. And with Brandon Jennings also being shipped away in a different trade, the spotlight was all on Jackson as he had to take over as the starting point guard for Detroit. While many players might find being traded insulting, it is pretty clear to see that Jackson couldn’t have been happier. On twitter following the trade, Jackson tweeted, “Crying tears of joy. #godisgreat”.
Making the transition from being a backup to a starting point guard is never an easy task, especially playing in a new team system. However, so far Jackson has proven to be exactly what Detroit needed. With his quickness and strength, Jackson is quickly emerging as a potentially elite point guard around the league. In his first four games with the Pistons, Jackson is averaging 16.0 points per game to go along with 6.5 assists and 5.4 rebounds. He has even seen his minutes tremendously increase, playing 35 minutes against Cleveland and 41 against the Knicks just a couple days later. With plenty of action in each game he has played so far, it is fair to say that Jackson seems to have finally found a home in Motor City.
At just 24 years old, and in a new city with a bright future surrounded by all star-caliber guys in Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, the Pistons could be making noise very soon in the NBA. As for right now, Reggie Jackson is this week’s Athlete on the Rise.