Reggie Jackson is no longer a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. But even after the talented but inconsistent fourth-year guard was traded to the Detroit Pistons yesterday, he continues making waves in his former stomping grounds.
The 24 year-old’s departure from the Thunder was contentious. Though he nor any of his Oklahoma City teammates openly spoke of discord between them, reactions to Jackson’s exit from each party confirmed the long-standing belief that his presence was a constant cause of strife in the Thunder locker room.
This doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who’s grateful for his time in OKC:
And though Jackson later tweeted a thank you to the Thunder organization and its legion of fans, Russell Westbrook’s response to a question about his team’s title viability – pre-trade, mind you – is telling of his team’s relationship with the Boston College product:
But not even that relatively incendiary comment suggests the outwardly antagonistic nature of Jackson’s final months wearing a Thunder uniform.
According to a report, he refused to play in Oklahoma City’s third game of the season despite the team’s rash of injuries because he was displeased at not receiving a contract extension. And not only did Jackson willingly sit-out despite being cleared to play by team doctors, but also openly flaunted his decision to do so after telling reporters he simply wasn’t healthy enough to perform.
Here’s ESPN’s Royce Young in a fascinating story detailing Jackson’s precipitous and largely self-inflicted downfall with the Thunder:
Two days before the Thunder’s season opener in Portland, Jackson sprained his ankle and missed the team’s first two games. In their third game, the Nov. 1 home opener against the Nuggets, Jackson was cleared to play, but according to a source, refused to because of disappointment that he wasn’t traded before the Oct. 31 extension deadline for first-round picks entering their fourth season, like Harden before him. Jackson spoke at shootaround that morning, coyly saying he probably wouldn’t play that night. Immediately after finishing his session, he grabbed a ball and threw down an impressive drop-step windmill dunk — in front of reporters and his teammates. Remember: This was when the Thunder were piecing together a roster without Durant and Westbrook, and only had eight active players available.
We wrote on the possibility of a “freeze out” by Ibaka and Perkins at the time, but refused to completely buy into a such a hysterical scenario. Obviously, that half-full approach has proven naive. Things weren’t just bad with Jackson and the Thunder this season, but downright nasty.
How else to explain the very public windmill dunk before that early season matchup with the Nuggets mere moments after insisting he was unfit to appear? Yikes.
Given this new intel and the convincing response to an active trade deadline from Oklahoma City last night in a win over the Dallas Mavericks, one wonders just how much Jackson’s departure – irrespective of additions like Enes Kanter and Kyle Singler – will positively influence the Thunder going forward. Chemistry matters in basketball more than any other sport and can be easily marred by the toxicity of a single individual. With all of Scott Brooks’ players now seemingly on the same page, we certainly wouldn’t be surprised if Oklahoma City went on a late-season run to title contention.
As for Jackson, he better hope Stan Van Gundy thinks of highly of him as he does of himself. The 6-3 guard hasn’t played well in 2014-2015, and so many reports of irrational off-court frustration only make matters worse for his prospects in restricted free agency. And though Brandon Jennings is injured, will the Pistons really be comfortable affording Jackson the deal he desires with a proven option already in house?
If Jackson’s underwhelming play and mercurial attitude travel with him from Oklahoma City to Detroit, we certainly doubt it – despite the price Van Gundy paid to acquire him.