The Los Angeles Clippers saw their season come to an end on Wednesday, as Chris Paul carried the Phoenix Suns in the second half to a 130-103 Game 6 win. For Paul and the Suns, it was a jubilant scene at Staples Center, where the 16-year veteran got to put on that NBA Finals hat for the first time in his career.
On the other side, there was the typical disappointment for a team that just got knocked out of the playoffs, but there was also plenty of reason for the Clippers to keep their heads high. This was a team that had proven its resiliency all postseason, coming back from 0-2 deficits in both of their first two series and forcing a Game 6 after falling in the same hole in the conference finals. They had to complete that second round comeback against Utah and play the entire conference finals without Kawhi Leonard, which prompted others to have to step up in big ways.
Paul George was able to do that in a big way, putting to rest the narrative about him not being able to perform at his best in the postseason, but others took on bigger roles and provided needed lifts around him. No one did so more often than Reggie Jackson, as the point guard became the Clippers consistent second scorer — at time taking on the primary role — and was the playoffs’ most prolific three-point shooter.
Jackson, soon to be a free agent as his minimum deal runs up in L.A. this summer, proved himself in a way few anticipated and he seems set to receive a big payday come August. However, Jackson wasn’t thinking anything about that after the game, instead reflecting on how, in his words, this Clippers team saved him, saying he wouldn’t be playing if it wasn’t for this team embracing “my quirks and my strengths,” and thanking the team and the city for embracing him and giving him a home.
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
It is incredibly raw emotion from Jackson, offering a vulnerability we don’t often see from pro athletes. Jackson’s career has been a fascinating one, going from a talented backup in OKC to landing a lucrative deal in Detroit on a team that never found its way, to suddenly finding himself out of a job and with plenty wondering what he could bring to a winning team. The answer this playoffs was “a lot,” and Jackson is a tremendous example of how much fit matters for players — as does the way Cam Payne is thriving across the court in Phoenix.
Jackson felt fully comfortable being himself in L.A., and when that happens the abilities on the court often shine their brightest. As he enters free agency, that will surely be near the top of mind for Jackson, who clearly would love to find a way to be back with this Clippers team and his close friend Paul George. Whether that can happen money-wise remains to be seen given the potential offers that could be out there for him after this playoff performance, but for someone who has had the big contract on a team that wasn’t a fit, he might choose that comfortability over the biggest offer.
The Clippers will have plenty of reason to bring him back and pay him handsomely to do so. While Jackson says he feels the Clippers saved him, he was often the one saving the Clippers this postseason with his play and the offensive boost he brought L.A., particularly with Leonard out. It’s understandable why he would be grateful for what the team gave him, but he returned that in full with how he performed in this playoff run — the deepest in franchise history. Hopefully, the two sides can find a way to keep him in L.A. because it’s clearly a place that means a lot to Jackson now, and from a basketball perspective he’s a snug fit for the Clippers’ needs.