Jackson agreed to a buyout with the Pistons during that season and joined the Clippers about three weeks before the league shut down due to the pandemic. When play resumed in Orlando, L.A. suffered a heart-breaking playoff defeat after letting a 3-1 lead slip away against the Nuggets.
“But my brother kind of talked some sense into me. It was a time during the pandemic where people unfortunately didn’t have jobs still,” Jackson recalled. “The job market was very brutal, so just the idea of coming back for another year and not knowing what was going on in the world and knowing I had some joy (for the game). Really, I came back with an idea that I was just going to enjoy waking up each and every day being around the game that I love. And honestly, I didn’t expect to even play. … I just thought I was going to probably be more of a mentor, a senior statesman role, trying to vie for a position if I can get on the court.”
Instead, Jackson has emerged as a leader for a team facing the prospect of heading into the playoffs without Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. He signed a two-year, $21.6MM contract last summer and appears to have a secure home for the rest of his career.
Jackson touches on a few more topics in the in-depth interview:
On why he joined the Clippers after leaving Detroit:
“Doing the buyout, honestly, I never wanted to do one. I’m a guy where when I sign up, I’m going to give you all I’ve got for that time. … Honestly, it was just about playing basketball. It was trying to find a spot to get healthy. When Paul (George) called me, it was that safety net and that feeling of comfort having somebody that I knew was going to have my back in the locker room and somebody who understood me. At the time, I felt like I was very misunderstood. I just needed somebody in my corner.”
On the experience of navigating a season without star players available:
“It’s going through the journey with the team through our ups and downs of the season. That’s been the gratifying part of seeing our spirits, how we were a little shaky earlier with our belief at times, but through the wins, the losses, you can still feel our spirit. We truly believe that we’re gonna win each and every night that we go out there. And we believe that we’re gonna give our best effort. That’s the standard here with our culture. Being in my 11th season and while being in the moment to still be able to take a step back and reflect as we go along the journey (is key). I think that’s been something with the maturation throughout the years. I’m enjoying the right now with this group.”
On his relationship with Lakers guard Russell Westbrook, which was reportedly rocky when they were teammates in Oklahoma City:
“I mean I see him around. We play pick up and all (during the offseason). There’s no problem (laughs) — at all. I always wish him well, always tell him to tell his family what’s up for me. He was definitely — even though we were around the same age — he was definitely my vet, showing me the ropes, taking me around, making me comfortable. I think a lot of my aggression and my fire, and the way I play is because we’re all a product of our environment. So I also felt like I was raised under him as well. I’m always appreciative of Russ and thankful for all he’s done for me during my career. He raised me and showed me the ropes, especially preparing me for… what it was going to be like being a starter in the league and taking your lumps, the ups and downs and staying confident in yourself and even keel.”
On the chances of George and Leonard returning for the playoffs:
“I just prepare every day like they’re coming back tomorrow. But I’m one of those people where I prepare for the worst and then hopefully the best (happens). I live in both worlds, so right now if they come back tomorrow and they become Supermen for us, then I don’t care what seed we get, we’re trying to win a championship. … I always believe we’re building something, and as long as you keep that mentality, then I think eventually we’ll be where we want to be.”