Unable to play in summer league or report to Oklahoma City’s training facility amid the NBA’s 2011 lockout, point guard Reggie Jackson began his truncated rookie season in Los Angeles, where he trained and hung out almost daily with Paul George, a second-year forward with Indiana.
Introduced through their mutual agent, the guard from Colorado Springs and forward from Palmdale grew close. Soon, they were concocting ways in which they could team up not only out of the season, but during it.
“He’s always been like, ‘We’re going to play together,’” Jackson said Friday.
Nine years later, they took the court together Thursday inside another Los Angeles gymnasium. This time, it was for the same team.
“It’s something we’ve always talked about so it felt surreal,” Jackson said. “Even hanging out after practice yesterday and leaving his house to home like, ‘I’ll see you in the morning.’”
When Jackson wasn’t traded ahead of the Feb. 6 deadline, George revived discussions about playing together. It would require the Pistons buying Jackson out of the final year of his five-year, $80-million contract.
“I was like, ‘I don’t think that’s going to be able to be pulled off,’ and just the discussion with my team and Detroit, they just wanted to go young,” Jackson said. “We came to an agreement that it was time to move on.”
He immediately targeted the Clippers because of their championship aspirations and George’s welcome.
“He’s probably my best friend in the league,” Jackson said. “It was an easy decision.”
The decision to add a primary ballhandler was just as easy for the Clippers’ front office and coach Doc Rivers, who felt they’d asked guards Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet and Lou Williams to do too much at times when it came to initiating the offense.
Jackson will make his Clippers debut Saturday against Sacramento at Staples Center.
“We want Lou to be a scorer and because we didn’t have that extra guard, Lou was doing all the ballhandling duties and I thought that hurt him,” Rivers said. “Now Lou can focus on what he really does well and Reggie can get it to him.”
Jackson “is another instigator, man. We want as many instigators as we can have,” Rivers said. We don’t want the retaliators; we want the guys that start it first and he’s one of those guys. He knows how to play the game and he knows the point guard position. We filled a lot of holes with that one signing.”
Jackson, who missed 42 games this season because of an injury to his lower back before returning Jan. 22, laughed when he was relayed Rivers’ “instigator” label. He’d prefer to be known as a scoring guard trying “to help in any way possible,” even if it means a role that will assuredly involve fewer opportunities than the 27.2 minutes he averaged during 14 games this season with Detroit.
“That was the only thing I signed up for was to try to help this team get better, progress and hopefully make history,” Jackson said. “They want to make a great run and that’s something I just want to be a part of.
“We have parameters that you have to play within, being unselfish, but be aggressive. But just talking to [Rivers] he was a great salesman. I’ve enjoyed the practices. We’ve played together well and hopefully we can hit the ground running playing well together but sometimes it takes time to get continuity.”
No adjustment period, however, will be necessary for his rotations alongside George.
When: 12:30 p.m., Saturday
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Update: George and Beverley took part fully in Thursday and Friday’s practices, Rivers said, but have been ruled out for the game against the Kings. Beverley missed seven of the team’s last 11 games with an injured groin, and George reinjured his left hamstring Feb. 13 after hurting it twice in January. Their lineup will feature new additions Jackson and Marcus Morris. “We had two days of practice,” Rivers said. “We’re looking at it like we’re just starting anew. We didn’t put a lot in but we put some stuff in.”