Some romances make no sense, in that Sandra Bullock-with-Jesse James, Lisa Marie-and-Michael way. Same with bro-mances, or in the most immediate NBA terms, Stephen Jackson and Gregg Popovich down in San Antonio.
On the surface, these two would seem to have all the compatibility of Deion Sanders and Vince Lombardi, Latrell Sprewell and P.J. Carlesimo. Or rice paper and a thunderstorm. Yet here they are – one of the league’s most incorrigible players and one of its leading practitioners of my-way-or-highway team management – getting together again, reprising a relationship that worked out well enough nine years ago, when Jackson was a valuable 25-year-old contributor (third in scoring, fourth in minutes) on the Spurs’ 2003 championship team.
Jackson has gone on to act out and wear out his welcome at multiple stops since then, while always citing San Antonio as the place where he fit best. The Spurs apparently have long felt that way, too, based on what veteran scribe Mike Monroe wrote for the San Antonio Express-News upon the announcement that Jackson had been acquired on deadline day from Golden State for forward Richard Jefferson, guard T.J. Ford and a future first-round pick with serious protections until 2017:
Spurs general manager R.C. Buford called Thursday’s deal the culmination of several years worth of attempts to get Jackson back with the team. The 33-year-old, who has been with five teams since leaving the Spurs, has remained a favorite of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and is still close with the vital pieces who remain from that 2003 title team: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
“We’ve had discussion with people about Jack before, just making people aware we had interest and followed him since the time that he left,” Buford said.
Maybe Pop is mellowing in his advancing years. Maybe he’d better be, because that 25-year-old “Captain Jack” soon will turn 34, and he managed to flame out in Milwaukee fast. All it took was for Jackson to show up last summer grousing about his contract – he had yet to play a game for the Bucks – and then to chafe almost immediately with coach Scott Skiles, who ought to have reminded him a little of Popovich.
The swingman with the street cred wasn’t happy with his minutes. He got suspended for a game for missing a shootaround. With center Andrew Bogut absent, Jackson selfishly thinned the Milwaukee roster further by arguing with a referee until he earned a league suspension. Eventually Skiles ignored him and wished him gone, achieved finally in the deal that sent Bogut to Golden State for Monta Ellis, Epke Udoh and Kwame Brown’s contract.
The Warriors, you’ll notice, didn’t stage any warm, fuzzy reunions with Jackson, though he had given a boost in 2007 to their only playoff run in the past 18 years. Now we’re expected to believe that Jackson’s respect for Popovich and friendships with Duncan, Ginobili and Parker will trump his instinctive desire to assert dominance, take offense at younger players’ role and jack up ill-advised shots. Let’s not ignore performance, either: Jackson was shooting a career-worst 35.7 percent, averaging a career-low 13.9 points per 36 minutes with 3.3 turnovers to 3.9 assists.
Maybe it will work. Maybe shedding Jefferson’s remaining salary and a rekindling Jackson connection will pay off, giving the Spurs easy buckets and a tough defender. They should just know that they’re on the clock, until the moment “contract extension” crosses Jackson’s lips.