Addition by subtraction or just a case of good riddance? Whatever the case, the San Antonio Spurs waived Stephen Jackson on the eve of the NBA playoffs Friday afternoon.
The news sent shock waves from San Antonio across the league, as many wondered why a squad with title aspirations would let go of what appears to be a valuable piece now. Jackson, aka Captain Jack, won a title with the Spurs in 2003 and returned last season to great fanfare.
Jackson has had his share of issues this season, some personal and others within the confines of the team. Reports of Jackson being upset with his role and playing time surfaced Friday, leading to run-ins with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich.
“We’re getting ready for playoffs,” Popovich said before Friday’s game against Sacramento. “Putting our team together and what we want to do and who we want to do it with, we thought that making the decision with Jack was best for the group.”
Jackson can be claimed by another team, but he’s ineligible for the playoffs. His season, for all intents, is over.
“He was classy,” Popovich said of Jackson’s reaction. “I’m sure he doesn’t like the decision, but basically you got to do what you got to do. He handled it well.”
To release the 13-year veteran less than a week before the start of the postseason suggests the issues were becoming too disruptive for Popovich and the Spurs to deal with going forward. And considering the Spurs are currently without Manu Ginobili, cutting Jackson loose means one less body in a thinning rotation.
“I was as shocked as everybody when we heard the news,” Spurs guard Danny Green said. “I don’t know the details or anything. I heard the news. I was just as shocked as anybody.”
Jackson has been a wild card just about every place he’s been. He’s difficult to deal with at times and almost always moody. But he worked in San Antonio, reining it in while keeping his fire. The Spurs core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili are the epitome of professional, but they accepted Jack.
He somehow fit in with the Spurs Squares. Jackson’s no-fear attitude went beyond pulling up for 3-pointers on the break. The Spurs, often criticized (unfairly) for being too nice, welcomed the Port Arthur native with a perpetual chip.
“Tough decision, because on a personal basis, I’ve known him a long time,” Popovich said. “I enjoy him very much, but you got to make decisions that are tough sometimes. We thought this was best for our group.”
Asked if he thought Jackson being dumped impact the Spurs’ chemistry, Pop answered: “I think the team will be fine.”
The Spurs, on paper and in reality, need players of Jackson’s ilk. His skills, experience, mental toughness and championship moxie aren’t duplicated by any of the team’s other reserves. Green doesn’t have it. Neither does Nando De Colo nor Gary Neal nor Patty Mills.
But those guys obviously bring something to the table that Jackson doesn’t. They believe in Pop’s system and their roles.
Jackson must not anymore. And that’s why he’s gone.