The top prospect in the NBA D-League Pierre Jackson, had perhaps his best showing of the season so far as a member of the Idaho Stampede on Saturday night, and he didn’t even play.
Jackson was a late scratch (by late, I mean minutes before player introductions) and was forced to take in the grueling sixth game in nine days wearing street clothes on the bench. Jackson sat out because of stiffness in his elbow (at least that’s the story for now).
The leading scorer for his team and in the entire NBADL, Jackson’s absence was quickly felt on the court. The Stampede started slow, and things looked grim. However, his team battled and despite having their second leading scorer unavailable as well (Richard Howell was out due to an illness), the Stampede knocked off the red hot L.A. D-Fenders 123-113.
That’s not where the story ends, in fact, it’s just the beginning. I observed Jackson on the bench nearly the entire game, and his support for his teammates was noticeable. In the close contest, Jackson was often found picking his teammates up in the huddle, and congratulating them as they walked back to the bench.
Despite his tendency to launch shots, and to have what’s often been described as a selfish game, Jackson was found being a teammate Saturday night. He couldn’t fire any three pointers, or acrobatically take the ball to the hoop, all he could do was cheer, and that’s what he did.
My scheduled pregame interview with Jackson was interrupted by the Stampede’s trainer as they informed me Jackson needed to head to the locker room for a game-time medical decision. It was both a surprise to me and seemingly Jackson.
Nonetheless, I headed up to my usual spot in CenturyLink arena and took in the action.
After the game concluded, I hit the locker room for a postgame interview with Kevin Murphy, who led the team in scoring with 39 points. Murphy didn’t know what sort of role he was going to have until late. “I didn’t know we were only going to have eight guys until I was told I was going to start. Once I was told that, I knew I had to be aggressive, but maintain my energy.” Murphy said.
On my exit, it seemed like my attempt to catch up with Jackson after the NBADL Showcase wasn’t going to happen, I figured he’d left already.
As I scaled up the stairs to exit the arena I saw Jackson talking with a friend. We exchanged eye contact and he asked me if I needed anything from him? I replied, “oh you mean the interview? It’s not a big deal, I just wanted to catch up with you after the Showcase.” Pierre answered, “let’s do it man, I’m ready.”
The following conversation took place…
Me: It was your first time playing in the NBA D-League Showcase and you won the MVP, how was the Showcase experience for you knowing that so many important NBA GM’s were in attendance?
Pierre Jackson: Ah man it was really important not only for me, but for the team. Being able to play as a team in front of those guys, and also as individuals to show that we are all capable of playing at the next level. All together it was fun, I got to see a lot of players that I knew, and got to catch up. We got the chance to get a win too, so that was fun.
Me: What does it mean to you to hold the top prospect position on the NBA D-League Prospect list?
Pierre Jackson: You know it really doesn’t mean much, it’s always a good thing that people think highly of you doing the things that you love to do. At the end of the day it really doesn’t mean much to me, I actually started lower than this, so just getting the chance to show people my game, I thank God I’m able to play at my top level today.
Me: At the start of the season did you think that you would still be playing in the D-League at this point in the season?
Pierre Jackson: Um, yeah. I mean the goal remains the same and that’s to play in the NBA. Unfortunately, in my situation it hasn’t happened yet, but all of that comes with patience and time. Hopefully the opportunity presents itself sooner than later, but until then I’m going to play for the Idaho Stampede and try to win games.”
Jackson could have easily ignored me, and went about his evening, but the genuinely polite former Baylor standout took the time to make sure “I got what I needed.”
I didn’t really need anything, but in return I got to see why Pierre Jackson will indeed play in the NBA as a professional one day, because he’s already a professional on the court, and more importantly off of it.