MILWAUKEE – When Stephen Jackson’s playing time was all but eliminated over the course of the past few weeks, Milwaukee Bucks head coach Scott Skiles said the decision to rest his veteran guard was about the way the team had been playing in his absence.
With the Bucks reeling, having lost back-to-back games in excruciating fashion, Skiles said he’d see what would happen with Jackson back in the lineup.
“I told Jack when we had a couple of long conversations about it that I felt like the team was playing well, and I wanted to ride that out,” Skiles said Tuesday during his pre-game session with reporters. “I rode it out and we had two games where we were terrible. So it’s time to figure something else out.”
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Jackson got his chance, playing 30 minutes and scoring 12 points with four assists and two rebounds in the Bucks’ 107-105 loss to Phoenix on Tuesday at the Bradley Center. He was on the floor for the entire fourth quarter, hitting two of his four shot, including a three-pointer with 8:14 to play that gave Milwaukee its first lead since the first quarter.
The veteran guard said he had no idea whether he’d play when he reported to the arena.
“I come to practice every day, I come to the gym early every day and get ready as if I know I’m going to play,” Jackson said. “Whenever he calls my name, I’m going to be ready.”
It was Jackson’s longest on-court stint since playing 34 minutes in Milwaukee’s 107-100 loss at Chicago Jan. 27. Since then, he’s played in one of the Bucks’ last six games — going scoreless in just under 10 minutes of work Feb. 1 in the Bucks’ 105-97 victory over Miami.
In 19 games this season (13 starts), Jackson is averaging 12.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 30 minutes per night.
He’s been vocal about his displeasure with his lack of playing time but hasn’t been a distraction on the bench, in the locker room or at the team’s training facility. Jackson has vowed to stand by his teammates and support them any way possible.
“I’m going to be a professional,” Jackson said. “If they call me I’m going to go out there and play hard and do what I can. I was happy to get in there today and go out there and give my all for my teammates.”
Throughout the season, he has avoided commenting on speculation that he has requested a trade and when asked about his desire to stay in Milwaukee Tuesday, told a reporter that he couldn’t answer that question.
“If I answer that, I’ll get fined,” Jackson said.
Jackson, acquired from Charlotte in a three-team draft day trade that sent Corey Maggette to the Bobcats and John Salmons to Sacramento, is making $9.26 million this season and is due another $10 million in 2012-13, the final season of a three-year, $28 million deal he signed before last season.