Reggie Jackson Gambled On Himself. And Lost

When a max player negotiates a buyout only two things are at play. He was overpaid, can’t deliver, and wants out. Or, he put out so much blood, sweat and tears he has nothing left to give an organization that isn’t built to win while his prime years are fading away. Reggie Jackson is not that. He is the overpaid player who couldn’t live up to the zeroes on his paycheck; he is that dude you mock.

A decent guard who doesn’t have All-Star talent, Reggie Jackson left a good thing in OKC who drafted him in the 2011 draft with the number 24 pick. Jackson has always overvalued his abilities. He was desperate to escape the Russell Westbrook shadow and run his own team. Except, his skill set doesn’t allow that kind of trust. And he finds a way to get injured. A lot. And so his max deal turned into buyer’s remorse.

Detroit had been trying to trade Jackson for two years but no one was biting and for good reason. When he’s not injured, he’s not making players better. And that contract made everyone nervous.

Jackson as a free agent chose the Clippers which makes sense if you want to win. His first game was the good and bad of Reggie Jackson. He started at point guard and shot 33% but he had 4 assists. He made a big shot late but it only padded his stats and didn’t do much to help the Clippers beat the Kings. Which really is the point.

Jackson would have been a good get if Jackson had the ability to make players better. And if he was efficient with the ball. But Jackson is who he is. On most nights, he can’t outplay his position on the other team. On Saturday afternoon, it was De’Aaron Fox who dominated. On Monday, it will be Ja Morant. The Clippers are probably the deepest title contenders. But what exactly does Jackson give them?

These are first world problems for Doc Rivers. He has the luxury of playing musical chairs. He can insert one guard when another guard isn’t cutting it. It is still too soon for Doc to make permanent lineup decisions considering how injuries and load management have wrecked the rotation.

As for Jackson, the Clippers are a better situation for him than Detroit. He spent too much time in the D trying to prove (and failing) he didn’t need Russell Westbrook.

Where did it all go wrong for Reggie Jackson? A lack of self awareness. He always saw himself as a starter but his game is more of a backup. He lacks versatility. He’s an ok shot maker but a terrible point guard. He doesn’t see the court well nor does he elevate his teammates. In late game situations, he veers towards hero ball instead of making the right play.

In Detroit it was a new era. Until it wasn’t.

While he played 79 games his first year with the Pistons, he only played a full slate of 82 games once over the next four seasons. Injuries kept him on the bench for three seasons. When he was healthy and in games, his shooting was inconsistent and you didn’t know what you were going to get. This year, more injuries, and he’s shooting 38%. Can he resurrect his offense to convince Doc Rivers to play him over Landry Shamet who is a 41% three point shooter and is clutch down the stretch.  In the 4th quarter, Shamet makes 49% of his shots and 47% of his threes.

Depth can work against a team because everyone cannot play. This is the worst playing time situation Jackson, a nine year vet, has ever been in. He has to fight for his minutes. But has he matured from the overly sensitive OKC kid who thought he was better than Russell Westbrook?

He says yes. He thanked Detroit for the five years and credited the city for developing him into a man. Jackson will have a lot of humility to swallow as a Clipper. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are the stars. Pat Beverly and Montrezl Harrell are the leaders. Lou Williams is the unstoppable scorer. Everyone else finds a way to fit in. Which is the Reggie Jackson challenge.

Fitting in perfectly.