The San Antonio Spurs were victorious Tuesday despite having the night off. Also, the return of Cap’n Jack (Stephen Jackson) fills a void that’s been empty for years.
Though the Spurs weren’t in action Tuesday night, they won nonetheless. Four of San Antonio’s rivals in the Western Conference playoff race fell in defeat, with three of them losing to lesser opponents (at least by record). This may not seem like that big of a deal, but with the Spurs cooling off since the All-Star break, any breathing room between themselves and the multitude of teams vying to catch them is certainly welcomed.
Currently in 2nd place in the conference, the Spurs have no doubt felt the resurgent Lakers and feisty Memphis Grizzlies hot on their heels. While the Lakers blew a 4th quarter lead in their loss to Houston, the Grizzlies trailed from start to finish in an ugly loss to the lowly Sacramento Kings. Elsewhere, the Thunder, who hold the top spot over the Spurs by 3 ½ games, lost to the surging Utah Jazz, now winners of four straight and challenging the Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. Not to be forgotten in the loss column; the Clippers. I wrote off the Clippers a month ago, so it’s no surprise when they lose anymore. However, a defeat suffered by Los Angeles’ “other” team usually increases the Spurs likelihood of remaining near the top of the conference. Of course, if the Spurs don’t capitalize and beat a depleted Minnesota team on Wednesday, Tuesday’s favorable outcomes will go to waste.
Stephen Jackson returns
The Spurs bringing Stephen Jackson back to San Antonio was a savvy personnel move that benefits the Spurs on and off the court. Off the court, it saves the organization a chunk of change close to $13 million after you consider the luxury tax savings. On the court, the Spurs gain something they’ve lacked since Bruce Bowen retired; nastiness.
I know it’s not the San Antonio way to jaw back at opposing players or get into someone’s face after a hard foul, but I think that lack of attitude has lost the Spurs intimidation points throughout the league. Jackson is known as a great teammate. He won’t shy away from confrontation. He’ll get under the skin of the Spurs fiercest rivals such as Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.
When the conservative and controlled Spurs need a kick in the pants, Jackson can provide it. When they need someone to respond to a hard foul and set the appropriate tone, Jackson will do it. No, he’s not at the top of his game anymore. He can’t score 20+ points every night. He can’t play four positions for 30 minutes like he once did. He will, however, add a toughness and swagger the Spurs have sorely missed. He brings that crucial “don’t mess with that guy” mentality to a team of composed professionals. And if he hits a clutch shot or two along the way, no one would be surprised. After all, Stephen Jackson “still makes love to pressure.”