Stephen Jackson Playing All-Star Basketball in Charlotte
Maybe now, they will agree.
Jackson, the talented but temperamental shooting guard, opened 2010 Saturday with his second consecutive 30-point-plus game, outdueling Dwyane Wade and Miami Heat.
This is what Larry Brown and the Bobcats had in mind when they traded for Jackson, whose questionable behavior has overshadowed the on-court accomplishments throughout his career.
Maybe those days are over. For now, he is carrying a franchise instead of disrupting one.
Jackson was dumped by the Indiana Pacers earlier in his career after a string of incidents, including his involvement in the infamous brawl with the Pistons in 2004, and the strip club parking lot fight in 2006 that led to him waving and shooting his gun to settle it.
He forced his way out of Golden State earlier this season by fueling a feud with coach Don Nelson, who traded him to Charlotte.
"I've always said people don't look at my play. They look at the incidents I've been involved in,'' Jackson said Saturday after scoring 35 points in the 107-97 victory over the Heat. "If people just judged me by my play, I'd have been in the All-Star Game by now. That was my goal coming into the league, to play in the All-Star Game. I'd love to get there this season. If people could just look past the mistakes I've made, they'd see how I play.''
Although Jackson's selection by the coaches as an All-Star reserve would be surprising, it might be deserving for the way he has played lately.
He had 30 points and five assists in a loss at Toronto Wednesday. He had 35 points and eight rebounds in Saturday's victory in Miami. He played a yeoman's 46 minutes in each game. Since his arrival, the Bobcats have improved steadily, now believing they can reach the playoffs for the first time in their brief history.
The Bobcats already have become a good team at home, where they are 11-4 this season. It's the road where they have struggled badly, winning just their second game on Saturday. But it was an example of the impact he could have.
Jackson, 31, now gives them a go-to guy they never had before. And at least for this week, he has shown an ability to look past the injustice he sees every time a call goes against him.
"Everybody is always telling me, I play better when I stay focused,'' Jackson said. "But I'm always on the refs every time they miss a call. Have you seen me play? History will tell you that it throws me off my game. But when I don't worry about the calls, I play a lot better. That's what I'm trying to do now.''
Jackson had a near-meltdown early Saturday when he missed four of his first five shots -- the Bobcats fell behind by 19 points -- and thought he got robbed on one call against him. But he settled quickly during a timeout. He made 10 of his final 15 shots, and he dominated the game down the stretch.
It certainly helps that he is being coached now by Larry Brown, who has been to the NBA Finals with both Allen Iverson (in Philly) and with Rasheed Wallace (in Detroit), two of the NBA's most recalcitrant stars. Brown has handled players that others could not.
"He (Jackson) has the same personality as Rasheed,'' Brown said. "I talk about him as being a poor sport. If he thinks things are unfair, he gets upset. But he's learning to play through it. He's having more and more success doing that now. He's been great for us, giving us something we needed.''
Jackson has upped his averaged to 19.9 points, and that number is expected to rise as the Bobcats get more accustomed to his style. Although he averaged 20.1 and 20.7 points in back-to-back seasons in Golden State, he is thrilled to be in Charlotte, playing for a team that needs him badly.
"You name it, he (Jackson) has done it,'' said forward Gerald Wallace. "Offensively, defensively, he's made a difference. He's turned this team around.''