The NBA lockout is on. For Stephen Jackson though it may have started a little early.
Jackson vented his frustrations over how his tenure in Charlotte ended when he finally showed up in Milwaukee (before he was not allowed to have contact with his new team after last night).
The Bobcats finished three games out of the Playoffs and were in the race to earn a second straight postseason into the final weeks. But Charlotte shut down its top player and left itself out of the playoff race.
“The last 10 games, I could have played,” Jackson said. “But they shut me down. The team shut me down. So I kind of assumed they didn’t want to make the playoffs.”
That certainly reveals some look into what the owners were doing entering the lockout. Michael Jordan and the Bobcats were in the nether world of just making the playoffs but not sucking enough to get a good lottery pick. They ended up with Kemba Walker and traded Jackson to Milwaukee and got the draft rights for Bismack Biyomba from Sacramento in return.
Jackson was not kept from working out in team facilities or from traveling with the team or contacting coach Paul Silas. He was not literally locked out. But with his team in the playoff hunt, the Bobcats just shut him down.
That hardly seems like the action of an owner whose team is losing money and might need the extra injection a playoff appearance can bring. Of course, it is also the difference between the No. 9 pick and the No. 15 pick in the draft. That can be a pretty big difference (although I think Kawhi Leonard is a very good player).
Jackson, who averaged 18.5 points per game but shot just 41.1 percent from the floor, said he got the feeling the Bobcats were building to win three years from now and that he did not really fit into that plan at age 33. That strategy certainly would explain why the Bobcats traded for more draft picks and rid themselves of an aging high-usage player like Jackson.
And it is not like Jackson’s claim may not have cause. He scored just three points on 1-for-4 shooting. Maybe he really was hurting or maybe he could have gone and played well to try and get Charlotte to the postseason. We will never know.
But typically we do see teams sell out to make the postseason — especially when money is needed. And it is not like the Bobcats are a cost-heavy team — they currently have the 20th highest payroll in the league. I would imagine another postseason appearance (even another sweep in the first round) would have helped build the franchise’s profile. It is not like Jackson was going anywhere to be traded anyway.
This story about Stephen Jackson shows more of the contradictions in the owner’s claims. Everything has to be viewed through the lens of the lockout right now. And this just feels like the Bobcats were straight up tanking to claim bigger losses at the bargaining table (not to say that they actually did).
This kind of a story has to be disappointing for Bobcats fans. They experienced their first postseason two years ago and seemed close to getting to another. They did not even try, it seems, to get to the 2011 Playoffs and are now in a rebuilding project. This kind of disconnect between the fans and how teams go about their business might just be the real problem that needs solving in the new collective bargaining agreement.
Photo via DayLife.com.