Thursday, January 26th is a day that Pierre Jackson won’t soon forget — for all the right and wrong reasons.
Fresh off signing his second 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks, Jackson saw his name penciled into the starting lineup against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It would be his first career NBA start and would happen to come against Mr. Triple Double himself, Russell Westbrook, in front of the palace that is Chesapeake Energy Arena, where King Russ’s 18,000-plus person court eagerly await to devour all on-comers. On TNT, no less.
Weeks later, and with added perspective, Jackson described what he was feeling when he stepped on the floor with the human highlight reel. “I was super excited, and then the nerves came out because my matchup was Russell Westbrook. But at the same time, it was a big night for me, my family, and my hometown of Las Vegas. I was just full of nerves and excitement.”
Jackson immediately tried to quell this emotional conundrum by getting up a flurry of shots. Right from the start it looked as if this “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality was working for Jackson. In his first 13 minutes on the floor he hit four of his first eight shots, including one from beyond the arc.
Then, the injury happened.
Jackson pulled up lame on Westbrook-esque aggressive jumper and his first taste of being NBA starter limped off the floor with him.
“I was just hoping it was a cramp because the week prior to that I got a lot of minutes in practice,” Jackson said. “I just got thrown into the fire and I was kind of tired from playing so much.”
In the wake of Jackson’s injury, a roster spot opened for a similarly diminutive yet rugged point guard in Yogi Ferrell. The 23-year-old, University of Indiana product was signed two days after Jackson was waived and hasn’t looked back since. Ferrell is averaging 14.2 points per game, and had an other-worldly performance a win over the Blazers on February 3rd where he went off for a career-high 32 points in 39 minutes, which included shooting 9-for-11 from three-point range.
One would think that Jackson would see a lot of himself in Ferrell and in turn feel wronged or dismayed by Ferrell’s immediate success, but it’s quite the contrary.
“It’s dope. I love to see people from the D-League succeed in the NBA,” Jackson said. “Obviously Coach [Rick Carlisle] can’t take him out if he doesn’t see him doing stuff he doesn’t like. Yogi went in there with full confidence and took over. He was a killer. I was excited to watch him to do that, and I got on Twitter and expressed that. I hope he continues to be successful.”
Jackson is no stranger to an injury perturbing his NBA dream. In 2014, as a member of the 76ers Summer League roster, the 25-year-old ruptured his right Achilles and was ruled out of any competition for six to 12 months.
“I was mad when the hamstring injury happened, but now I’m used to it. I just know something big is going to happen for me, and everyone who supports me knows that too,” he said.
“Pappygawd” as he’s known on social media, made his return to the hardwood post-injury wearing a different Texas team’s colors and in a much different setting this time around. He was a participant for the Texas Legends in the D-League three-point competition over All-Star weekend. The prolific scorer tallied 15 points, which ended up being three short of the amount needed to send him into the Finals.
Now, with All-Star festivities in the rear-view mirror, Jackson is set to make his D-League return on Wednesday night and also again firmly plant his feet into the starting blocks in the race to return to an NBA roster. Before the Mavs called him up, Jackson was the D-League’s leading scorer at 29.6 points per game — on pristine 53/45/82% shooting — to go along with 6.8 assists and 1.8 steals.
GAMEDAY | Some guy named @PAPPYGAWD is back in uniform 😁
— Texas Legends (@TexasLegends) February 22, 2017
“I’m hoping to play the first game back after the All-Star break. I’ve just been trying to play it safe, and whenever my hamstring feels good, go for it.” Jackson said. “Of course, I want to get back to the NBA — that’s the goal. I’m hoping I can string together some good performances post All-Star break and remind teams that forgot about me what I can do.”