As I watched Tyronn Lue substitute out Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris Sr., Paul George and Terance Mann with just under three minutes left in the fourth quarter of Game 6 against the Phoenix Suns, I felt myself experiencing a huge serotonin dump. It was a sign of just how intense the Clippers postseason run had been, and that was the moment that had all but confirmed it was over. With that came a mixture of pride and sadness.
While coming to terms with the loss, I blankly scrolled through Twitter in search of something to lift my spirits — a rarity, I can assure you. Surprisingly though, I found it in the form of a video of Jackson speaking to the media in the aftermath of the game. It’s an image and a speech which sticks in my mind to this day.
An emotional and tearful Reggie Jackson talks about how much this team and his best friend Paul George have meant to him and his career. pic.twitter.com/9esDrS3P1U— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) July 1, 2021
I definitely felt a very small portion of what Jackson was feeling, without having the lived experience of what he’d actually gone through. Having been that close to the brink of giving up on something he loved, but being pulled back in and finding a home, a place full of people who had grown to love him. That’s what brought on that emotion for him and it made me simultaneously sad, but also pleased for a player who had captured my imagination during those playoffs. I can’t say I felt too worried about what was to come next.
I trusted that the organisation would want to bring back the core that had won the hearts of the fans, and that was coupled with a certainty that the clamour for Jackson’s return came as much from his side. A guy who could display that level of emotion wouldn’t just turn his back on a group of players he had called his brothers. No amount of money could build those relationships or bring about that level of passion. Although I knew teams would come in to try and steal his signature, I knew where his heart was.
Then he came home.
“Unless they didn’t want me here, I think I was going to be a Clipper,” Jackson said after re-signing. “Even then, I was just going to bring my bags and sit on the front door and ask for anything. No, it was never really that much of a thought about me being elsewhere. It was please hurry up and figure it out and let’s get this on the road. I couldn’t wait for this day, really for tomorrow to get back to it, but I couldn’t wait for this day to be back.”
Us either, Reg.
So what will this season bring for Jackson? If preseason has been anything to go by, it will be service with a smile. I don’t remember ever seeing a guy look as happy in a Clippers uniform, and while it’s amusing to see things like Kawhi Leonard’s constantly nonchalant approach to life, there’s nothing that quite beats seeing one of your key guys so overjoyed to be on your team.
Without Leonard, Jackson will be key this season. Although we’re expecting to see some adjustments by the coaching staff on the defensive end, with rotation reshuffles and the new guys being integrated, we’ll be expecting much of the same from last season on the offensive side of the ball. The franchise’s total leading postseason 3-point shooter, and a player who was much improved at getting to the basket and making plays, will be crucial to that drive-kick-swing motto.
I’ll be perhaps most interested to see how a starting backcourt of Jackson and Eric Bledsoe functions, but I anticipate that the former will do everything he can to allow the latter to thrive, and that he’ll do the same for the other new guys. Among my many highlights of his from preseason, seeing the former Pistons guard dancing up and down the court to Keon Johnson and Brandon Boston Jr.’s rookie initiation songs at open practice is right up there. It was a small demonstration of where the culture is and just how important Jackson is to that.
A lot of what he’ll bring to this squad may not necessarily show on stats sheets but, given that multiple Clippers have already called Jackson the loudest voice in the locker room, he’ll be no less influential to this next chapter of the Ty Lue project. He’ll be a huge part of our enjoyment of it too. His smile and energy have become a beacon of hope during dark times, and it’s clear he wants to share with us the highs he’s been able to experience this past year or so. Us fans can only hope we have lots more of those moments to celebrate this season, but we can rest assured that Reggie Jackson will be doing his level best to make sure that we do.