The Warriors’ Stephen Jackson did not take the most conventional route to NBA.
The Warriors' Stephen Jackson did not take the most conventional route to NBA. (Sean Connelley - Staff)
OAKLAND — Stephen Jackson knows they are talking, knows they are waiting for him to fall.

Waiting for him to show that despite basketball skills which took so long to perfect he remains more liability than asset, more problem than solution.

The incidents. The reputation.

The stomp into the stands at Detroit. The shots fired into the air outside an Indianapolis Club. The ejection in Game 2 of the the Dallas series, which drew a $50,000 fine. The ejection in Game 5, which drew only snickers from the media.

Bad guy? The Warriors' Stephen Jackson? Or good guy?

"I'm not going to say I don't think about what the media says about me," conceded Jackson. "But at the same time, the only way I can control that or to get people to think the correct thoughts is by me going out and conducting myself as a leader, conducting myself as an NBA player.

"Conducting myself like the person I have been."

Round Two. Warriorsfrom Sports 1

against the Utah Jazz. But Round One still lingers in the mind's eye.

Jackson throwing in those 3-pointers in Game 6 against the Dallas Mavericks. Jackson throwing up his arms to help double-team Dirk Nowitzki. Jackson the hero.

Jackson the question mark.

"We were simply willing to take a risk," said Don Nelson the Warriors coach. "And I'm glad we did."

Sunday morning, and Jackson, as others, is at the team's headquarters and workout facility, pleasant, cooperative.


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"He's a good-hearted guy," teammate and friend Jason Richardson said. "Always smiling. Always joking."

Not that evening in November 2004 when, then members of the Indiana Pacers, Ron Artest and Jackson swarmed into the crowd, when the Brawl at the Palace, became a blot on pro sport.

A seasonlong suspension for Artest, who interestingly was in the Warriors' locker room getting T-shirts autographed after the series win over Dallas. A 30-day suspension for Jackson.

"There's some negative press," said Jackson, who in April turned 29, "but at the same time people don't look at me like I can't play the game. The biggest thing right now is to get everything in my past to start to go away, for me to continue to be humble and worry about the positive stuff. I play with emotion, but sometimes my emotion does hurt me.

"I have to do more policing of myself. I can't rely on the coach and my teammates. I have to come to the gym and even before I step foot in the locker room have the mind-set I'm not going to worry about the referees. Just play basketball."

And he can play. In the now historic trade of late January, the Warriors acquired from Indiana, among others, Jackson and Al Harrington — who once had been traded for Jackson — in exchange for, among others, Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy Jr.

"The first day of practice here," said Nelson, "I knew Stephen Jackson was a major player."

What Jackson knew was the trade was necessary.

"I needed a new start," he explained. "But this trade was definitely a blessing in disguise for me."

Jackson's had new starts before. A lot of them.

Ruled academically ineligible to accept a scholarship at Arizona, he entered the 1997 NBA draft out of high school, was picked in the second round by the Phoenix Suns and was waived before the season started.

From there it was the La Crosse Bobcats, the Sydney, Australia, Kings, preseason 1998-99 the Chicago Bulls, Venezuela, preseason 1999-2000 the Vancouver Grizzlies, Dominican Republic, the Fort Wayne Fury and finally, 2000-01, the New Jersey Nets.

A season with the Nets led to two seasons ('02 and'03) with San Antonio, which led to a season ('04) with Atlanta and then 21/2 seasons with the Pacers.

"People don't know the person he is," said Richardson.

We're learning. Jackson should have learned to act properly.

"We needed to make a change on the court," said Nelson of obtaining Jackson. "So we were willing to take that risk off the court."

A change on the court. A player who is ingelligent and determined and talented. And remains one angry moment from ruining everything.

"I was able to control myself last game," Jackson said, "but who knows how it will be the next game. I've got to keep working. It's not going to happen overnight. I'm a fiery guy."

With a future. Also a past.

Art Spander can be reached at typoes@aol.com.