Ask any great player who has retired having never won a championship what they would’ve done to get one. Anything short of selling their first born or their soul would probably be the collective answer. But, realistically, would they have traded their best friend on the team to get that final piece? Would they have signed that one questionable knucklehead if it meant getting that title? The answer, each and every time, will probably be yes. The window of opportunity to win a championship is so small, that when that opportunity knocks, it’s best not to hesitate. Can you imagine what Charles Barkley would have given to get a ring? What about Karl Malone? John Stockton? Patrick Ewing?
Fans tend to think if their team has 2 young superstars, they will contend for the next decade. Ask Portland fans how that worked out for them. The Oklahoma City Thunder have one of the best young cores in the league. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka are all under the age of 24 and are all primed to see action in future All Star games. But what would have happened if the point guard on the team that was recovering from ACL surgery were Russell Westbrook, instead of Eric Maynor?
That injury to Maynor is what thrust rookie point guard Reggie Jackson into prime action for a title contending team. Before we get into what Jackson has done since he’s been pushed into the rotation as the main back-up point guard, let’s see what he was supposed to be. As the 24th pick in the draft, a player is not expected to be an instant contributor. If a team is picking that late, it usually means that they have a good record and made it into the playoffs. While they may be needing an impact player, they don’t expect to acquire one this late in the draft. Reggie Jackson was supposed to get his feet wet this year. He was expected to learn the speed and nuances of the game, develop a niche, and possibly spend some time in Tulsa with the Thunder’s D-League team. Instead, with the injury to Maynor, he was expected to manage a bench unit that was one of the best in the league. For those of you with any military experience, this is the equivalent of a private being put in charge a platoon.
Jackson has played the way a rookie in his position would. Good plays sandwiched between mental errors. One of the hardest things to do as a rookie is to play the game while you are thinking. Young players tend to rely exclusively on instincts and athleticism. But if they start to think too much, it begins to muddle their athleticism. This is currently what is happening withJackson. He wanting to play like a traditional point guard, but his game is more geared towards being a combo guard. Teams are starting to trap him more and, in a way, make him think more. This leads to one of two things with Jackson: either a turnover or Jackson trying to neuter himself on the court, by giving the ball up to a teammate as quickly as possible.
And don’t get me wrong; I’m not dogging the kid. He’s been put in a situation that he shouldn’t have been facing for at least another season. When Jackson does make a play, all the potential that Presti saw in him gets put on full display. The athleticism, the fearlessness, the comic-book like wingspan, the defensive potential. But he never has gotten a chance to ease into learning how to play in the league. Just imagine getting behind the wheel for the first time, and then getting your license the next day. You would eventually learn how to drive, but you may get into a couple of fender benders along the way.
This is why the possible signing of newly released Derek Fisher is so important. What Fisher lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in experience and veteran savvy. The signing would not be a chemistry shaker, as Fisher has always been regarded as a great locker room guy. It’s a move that just makes sense. He would slide into the back-up point guard role when needed, and would be the experienced hand that would guide the team when necessary. It’s moves like this that win championships. You don’t just plug up holes in sinking ships. You do that in strong ships too. Good back-up point guard play is a necessity on this team. Fisher provides that. Make the move Presti. Go Thunder!