New guys Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris try to step up without tripping the Clippers
When Clippers forward Paul George invited new teammate Reggie Jackson to his house last Thursday, Jackson didn’t think twice about accepting.
The two have known each other since Jackson’s rookie season, in 2011, and the point guard calls George one of his best friends. George’s friends are now Jackson’s friends. Game night at the George estate doubled as a reunion.
As the night wore on, Jackson — who only hours earlier had signed with the Clippers — brought out an iPad. Not to play games, but to study them.
“I was like, ‘All right, so, as fun as this is, I need to know some of these plays,’” Jackson said Saturday, following a 112-103 loss to Sacramento in his Clippers debut.
In a copycat league where, Jackson said, “everybody kind of steals each other’s plays,” acclimating to a new team is in the nuances — memorizing a Clippers-specific name for a play he might have run in Detroit, and learning new teammates’ unfamiliar tendencies. Like forward Marcus Morris, another recent Clippers addition, Jackson is leaning on years of NBA experience to aid his transition to a new team.
At first the NBA’s decision to switch the All-Star game format was a bit confusing, but the result of the Elam Ending was more excitement than in years past.
“I’ve been on teams with guys who can score, and that can do a lot,” Morris said. “For me, it’s about figuring out how I can play off of guys and where I can fit in best.”
That experience, of course, has also proved that opportunities to play deep into the postseason are fleeting. With 26 games remaining in the regular season, and the Clippers still grasping for the continuity that has eluded them all season, the new additions are under pressure to ensure that the search for their own rhythm doesn’t hold back that of their new team.
“I don’t want to be the reason things are going bad,” Jackson said. “I just want to go out there, find myself, be myself within the offense, try to help defensively, communicate. But I really pride myself on making guys’ jobs easier, so I want to find a way to continue to get guys easy looks.”
Jackson’s 39 passes Saturday were second-most on the team, and Kawhi Leonard quickly became his default option. Three of Jackson’s four assists — he also finished with eight points and two turnovers in 22 minutes — went to the most valuable player of last week’s All-Star game, who scored 31 points.
“It was easy,” Jackson said. “At times when I didn’t know what to do, I knew a pretty solid play was just get Kawhi the ball and space the floor.”
That strategy alone, of course, couldn’t save the Clippers against the Kings, who secured two road victories against the Clippers in the same season for the first time since 2005-06. During more than 4½ minutes of crunch time in the fourth quarter, the lineup of Morris, Leonard, guards Lou Williams and Landry Shamet and center Montrezl Harrell made one of their nine combined field goals and were outscored by nine points.
Morris was critical of his performance — “I don’t think I did ...,” he said, punctuating his self-evaluation with a swear word. But he was optimistic about the long view.
“I’ve been in the league a long time,” he said. “I’ve been successful a long time, so a game or two, I’ll be right where I need to be.”
Morris was in his fourth game with the Clippers. Jackson was in his first and “struggled a little bit,” coach Doc Rivers said, “but I thought he should have. I told him before the game, try to do as much as you know and just play and we’ll figure it out.”
Jackson started but was expected to play off the bench upon the return of guard Patrick Beverley from a groin injury. Last year, Beverley’s presence was a bellwether for the intensity with which the team played, and this season, the Clippers also have struggled when Beverley sits, with their record 7-9.
Jackson’s connection with George wasn’t evident on the court Saturday, as George also sat out because of a hamstring injury, but their history together has already proven valuable within the locker room, Rivers said.
“When you get a player and they’re already close with someone on the team, I think that’s a very good thing,” Rivers said. “Not that he’s comfortable, but for the guy who’s close who’s been on the team, [he] can tell everybody else, ‘Hey this guy’s a good guy.’”
Morris brothers could be reunited, again
Should Markieff Morris, the twin brother of Clippers forward Marcus Morris, clear waivers and sign with the Lakers as expected, the brothers will share an arena, aspirations for a Western Conference championship, living quarters and carpools.
Marcus Morris said Friday he envisioned the pair sharing a house together should they both finish this season playing for the rivals.
When the Lakers and Clippers meet, Marcus Morris said, the brothers are “probably gonna ride to the game together.”
That arrangement wouldn’t rankle Rivers.
“They’ve been through a lot together,” the coach said. “I mean they’re twins, for God’s sake. Even if they didn’t live together, they would probably go to dinner every night. That wouldn’t bother us at all. And, you know, maybe Marcus could get some of the game plan, so you just never know.”
Finally healthy, New Orleans and Zion Williamson will come to L.A. to play the Lakers next week as they try to chase down a playoff spot in the West.
The identical twins grew up in north Philadelphia and shared rosters at Kansas, in college, and Phoenix, in the NBA. They have described themselves as inseparable, and their bodies are covered in matching tattoos depicting Philadelphia’s skyline and praying hands lifting a basketball.
“That don’t bother us to have to go out there and compete,” Marcus Morris said. “We’re pros, and both of us gonna go hard and both are gonna do the best we can do for our team.
“So for us to be together, it’s just icing on the cake.”
Up next for Clippers: Monday vs. Memphis
When: 7:30 p.m. PST
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket, NBA TV; radio: 570
Update: The Clippers canceled their scheduled practice Sunday and replaced it with a team film session. A large contingent from the team, including owner Steve Ballmer and consultant Jerry West, will attend Monday’s celebration of life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant at Staples Center, hours before tipoff against the Grizzlies.
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