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Clippings: Ty Lue considered starting Reggie Jackson at the beginning of the season

Jackson has certainly earned his spot in the starting lineup now.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Three Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

At the start of the 2020-21 regular season, Clipper Nation wasn’t too fond of Reggie Jackson. He had flamed out in the playoffs, and was almost an afterthought in the rotation by the end of the Denver series, and his decision to re-sign with the Clippers wasn’t exactly met with a lot of fanfare.

But internally, Ty Lue and the new coaching staff had high hopes for what Jackson could do in their system.

“Coming into the season when we first signed Reggie, our coaching staff, we talked about him potentially being a starter because of how we wanted to play and getting PG and Kawhi the ball in their spots,” Lue said after Game 3. “So you know, unfortunately Pat Beverley got hurt a few times this season and Reggie became a starter. He did a great job. Our numbers with him as a starter were off the charts, as well as with Pat as well, but offensively we really took off.”

The idea of Jackson starting seven months ago seemed preposterous to us outsiders. But he ended up starting 43 games by default due to injuries. He’s been a starter in the postseason since the third game of the first round, and now it’s hard to imagine it any other way.

2021 NBA Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v LA Clippers
Reggie Jackson’s success isn’t a surprise to anyone on the Clippers.
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Jackson is able to provide everything the Clippers need. He brings pace in transition. He attacks the paint, blowing by his defender to get defenses in rotation. He’s a rock-solid shooter, nailing 43.3 percent of his threes during the regular season, and 46 percent since he got the goggles. He fits in the defensive scheme, playing bigger than he is thanks to his 7’1 wingspan.

When the Clippers need a secondary scorer, he can do that. When they need a secondary ball-handler, he can even run pick-and-roll. He has a complete offensive skill set (other than throwing lobs, perhaps) and has been able to put all of that on display for the Clippers. Although Jackson doesn’t bring the defensive verve that Patrick Beverley does — and the Clippers have needed that against Devin Booker and Donovan Mitchell — it’s easy to see what Lue thought Jackson would bring to the team in the first unit.

Not only has Jackson seized the role of starter, he’s also the team’s de facto closer. He earned the nickname “Big Government” earlier in the year (h/t Justin Russo) for his ability to bail out the Clippers, and that has been the most true during fourth quarters. On Thursday, he led all scorers with 10 fourth-quarter points and no turnovers. Terance Mann said it’s “regular” to see what Jackson does at the end of the games after doing it all season.

“They have empowered me. Honestly this team has empowered me and this organization has empowered me since I’ve been here,” Jackson said postgame. “It was really our leaders. It was really Kawhi, Paul, Pat and collectively, everybody, coaches. They were just on me about being aggressive; stay aggressive; stay aggressive. I’ve gone through my career trying to make the right play and not necessarily just being myself and coming out and playing the game. Makes it a little difficult. But the more I just continue to be myself, the more this team empowered me to be myself, I’ve been able to find success fortunately and I’ve been able to healthy.”

The Clippers knew what they had in Jackson early on, and now he’s proving what this team already knew to everyone else. What a ride.

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