HANG TIME, Texas — Stephen Jackson has always brought a dash of the unexpected to every team he’s ever played on and last season that nonconforming flair helped get the Spurs to the Western Conference finals.
This time around, it got Capt. Jack booted off the team.
Just over two hours before opening tip Friday night against Sacramento, the Spurs announced that they had waived the 34-year-old swingman.
It was reported by Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski that Jackson had been “sparring” with coach Gregg Popovich over playing time for much of the season and the situation had deteriorated in recent days.
Jackson averaged 6.2 points in 19.5 minutes while playing in 55 games this season. But his unhappiness with his role is believed to stem from a desire for a next contract. He was in the final year of a deal that paid him $10.059 million this season.
According to sources, the feeling was that Jackson’s discontent was becoming a distraction in the locker room and Popovich’s feeling was that it could affect the younger players on the team as the Spurs enter the playoffs. It was simply time to cut out — or lop off — a brewing problem.
Jackson could sign on with another NBA team, but would not be eligible to take part in the playoffs, which open in eight days.
The mercurial veteran was hardly devastated by the Spurs decision to release him, based on his Twitter account. In a Tweet posted in the afternoon @DaTrillStak5, Jackson said: This how I get over the BS life brings. Haha #pinklemonadejumbochanel#spoilmywife #makesmehappy. It was accompanied by a photo showing a pink Chanel purse and five stacks of $100 bills.
It seems he was not appealing for the sympathy vote.
But so much for the Spurs’ depth.
The way things are going, if the regular season lasted any longer, they might not have enough players.
The Spurs had earlier announced that backup center Boris Diaw underwent surgery Thursday for the removal of a lumbar cyst on his spine and would miss 3-4 weeks, meaning he is unavailable for the start of the playoffs. The team was already playing without guard Manu Ginobili, who is sidelined with a hamstring injury and also expected to be unavailable for the beginning of a first round series. In addition, point guard Tony Parker, had sat out three of the four previous games with a sore neck and is also bothered by an assortment of other injuries.
The Spurs entered Friday night a half-game behind the Thunder in the chase for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, but now have more pressing matters at hand.
Jackson’s absence from the rotation will only amplify the absence of Ginobili from the second unit and makes a team with the third-best record in the entire league suddenly vulnerable in the postseason.