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When Reggie Jackson popped up off the Thunder bench and jogged over to the scorers table with a couple minutes left in the third quarter, I was confused.
Did Russell Westbrook get dinged up or something? Westbrook just picked up a foul, how many is that on him? Just three? So why is Jackson coming in?
It took me a second, but it became clear: Scott Brooks was just putting Jackson in the game. Not for any reason, other than to try and jumpstart the team.
Obviously it worked — maybe coincidentally — but it worked nonetheless. The Thunder went on a 15-2 run, took control of the game and escaped blowing a really bad game to the lowly Hornets at home.
“It was a feel thing,” Brooks said Thursday at practice. “During the game I felt like we needed something different and Reggie came in and gave us that.”
That begs the question: Is this “feel thing” going to become more of a regular feel thing? As in, with the way Jackson performed, is Brooks more willing to use him?
“I always try to find guys minutes. But it’s hard to play everybody on the team. The guys know that,” Brooks said. “When their number is called they have to be ready. I’m proud of Reggie because he stepped up and played well. Don’t know what it’s going to be like tomorrow night, but he has to be ready. I’m confident in all our guys, but you can only play so many.”
Jackson was supposedly step-for-step with Eric Maynor right up to the season opener for the backup point guard spot. And with the fairly disappointing play of Maynor in this early season, it’s been a natural question as to why Jackson hasn’t seen more opportunities. He got a few limited minutes early on in the season, but nothing regular, and nothing extended.
I don’t think Jackson will take over minutes from Maynor, at least not in the near future. Wednesday, Brooks used Jackson on the floor with Maynor, deploying him as an attacking creator and a defensive menace. His job was to get in, defend in OKC’s smallball lineup and make a few plays when he could. He wasn’t playing point guard at all.
This is often how it starts. A guy validates the minutes you give him, builds confidence both for himself and the coach, and justifies a reason to try him again. It’s hard to find rotation players at the end of your bench without giving them a chance to earn it. Jackson took a pretty good step Wednesday towards that.
On last night’s win was a sigh of relief: “Yes. That first half, we were out of sync. We were running in mud, we were missing shots we normally make. Like I said, you have to give the opponent some credit, and they were making us miss shots. They were physical with us that first quarter.”
On the difference between the team now and five years ago digging out of a hole: “Five years ago, we had that feeling before the game started.”
On if the Kings are just another game: “That’s been just another game for a long time.”
On if he can put his finger on what the problem was last night: “82 games in a year, you know. It’s gonna happen.”