Reggie Jackson really blossomed for Oklahoma City last season — he ran the team well when asked to start, he had career highs of 13.1 points and 4.1 assist per game, he had that key 32-point game against Memphis in the playoffs, and he shot 39.6 percent from three for them in the playoffs. As Thabo Sefalosha faded it was Jackson that filled the gap for OKC.
Jackson wants to be a starter. He says it’s important to him.
There’s just one little problem — Russell Westbrook.
Jackson is good point guard but Westbrook is a Top 10 NBA player (at least, I’d rank him higher) with elite athleticism. Westbrook is a franchise cornerstone, a game changer.
So Jackson, how do you feel about being a sixth man again? Speaking with Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman Jackson emphasized starting was important to him.
“I don’t think about ever coming off the bench for any team. If that’s the role I’m put in, that’s what I’m put in. But since the day I thought about playing in the NBA, I’ve always been a starter. Everything I’ve thought about, whether it be middle school, high school, kids leagues, I never envisioned coming off the bench….
“For some people (starting is) important. To others it’s not. It’s very prideful for me. I feel like I’m very talented. I feel like I can lead a team. That’s just how I’ve been raised and that’s just how I’ve always felt. I want to be the guy in charge. I want to be the guy leading the team. The head of the snake.”
You have to love that attitude and drive in a player. You want a guy motivated like that.
Last season against the Spurs in the playoffs Jackson did start games in the backcourt with Westbrook. That could happen again, right now at the two there is Anthony Morrow and Jeremy Lamb for OKC. Coach Scott Brooks has some options to play around with and see what works.
That said, Reggie I’d like you to meet Kevin Durant. He’s the head of the snake.
Jackson could be a restricted free agent next summer, and if he gets to that stage he might get offers from teams that have a little cap space and see him as the starter. OKC would like to lock Jackson up with an extension, but at what price? Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones will be due raises in a year, plus you have to throw the max at Durant in 2016 and Westbrook in 2017.
Jackson said he saw the deals Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons got this summer — he sees young players getting paid and, of course, he wants to join that group (he’s not a max guy, but he is due a raise). He said he and the Thunder have talked extension (they have until Oct. 31 to get a deal), but it doesn’t sound close.
“We haven’t really talked about it much this summer. I know my representation and the Thunder have been talking. But mostly I haven’t really gotten to talk super much about it. I’ve been busy. I think we’re just trying to figure things out and hopefully we can get a deal done.”
My guess is the market is going to set Jackson’s price as a restricted free agent next summer. And it might be a price the Thunder aren’t willing to match. But only if Jackson has another year of growth in OKC, whether he starts or not.