Monday, June 30, 2014 | 2 a.m.
The game was effectively over, but even though Pierre Jackson was on the wrong side of a lopsided loss, he wanted to finish with a flourish.
Jackson, a Desert Pines High grad and 2013 second-round draft pick out of Baylor, threw the ball off the wall at Grant Sawyer Middle School last Wednesday and rose to meet the rim at eye level while catching and finishing his own alley-oop. The three refs at the Desert Reign Pro City League looked at each other and shrugged. No way did anyone want to be the guy to whistle it out of bounds and stop the show.
It was a nice punctuation to a performance in which Jackson spent most of his time taking, and often making, NBA-range 3-pointers and hounding opposing guards on defense. About 24 hours later, Jackson was in a draft-night trade that sent him back to the team that had originally drafted him a year ago.
The New Orleans Pelicans sent Jackson to the Philadelphia 76ers for the No. 47 pick, Louisville guard Russ Smith. In the 2013 NBA Draft, Philadelphia selected Jackson 42nd overall and then traded him to New Orleans that night with Jrue Holiday for No. 6 pick Nerlens Noel and this year’s No. 10.
Jackson was injured and played little in last year’s NBA Summer League, and then after not agreeing to terms with the Pelicans, he was off to France. However, he left that team before ever playing a game.
While trying to play his way onto an NBA roster from the Developmental League — the Pelicans still held his rights — Jackson averaged 29.1 points, 6.2 assists and 3.6 rebounds in 31 games for the Idaho Stampede, who are led by former Findlay Prep coach Mike Peck. By February, Jackson felt the Pelicans weren’t going to call him up, so he signed another international deal in Turkey, where he played sparingly.
Now Jackson is back and ready for his second Summer League. The Sun caught up with Jackson the day before his second straight draft-night trade:
What are some of your takeaways from a unique first professional year as you prepare for Year 2?
Unfortunately, France didn’t work out for me, but I was blessed with the opportunity, so I came back and tried to show the NBA personnel that I can play at the NBA level. I wasn’t able to get to where I wanted to at the time, so this is a big summer for me.
When you were putting up those numbers in the D-League, were you ever thinking, “What more could I possibly do?”
Of course I was. You’re going to have people in your ear saying this or that, but I just tried to stay grounded and continue what I was doing throughout the whole season. That’s a good resume for me going into the Summer League.
Did you feel that your decision, from trying to play your way into the NBA to taking a better offer abroad, went well?
That definitely worked in my favor. I wanted to come in the NBA’s backyard and show my face, show what I was able to do, and I did that. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make that happen at that time, so I decided to go over there. My family needed the money at the time. Now everything’s good. I’m just staying in shape and getting ready for the Summer League.
What different elements of your game are you going to try to display this summer?
The leadership side and getting everyone involved. I’m a point guard first; I just took on a different role in the D-League and started scoring the ball. Getting to the Summer League, I want to be an all-around point guard and try to win as many games as possible.
At Baylor you played with Isaiah Austin, who less than a week before this year’s draft found out his basketball-playing career was over. What was your reaction?
I’m really close with Isaiah; he’s like my younger brother. He let me know the night before and I didn’t believe it was true. I gave him a call and it was real touching, we both were choking up. But he’s a very strong young man. He was keeping me from crying. He was telling me to keep my head up because I was dreaming big for him. He’s keeping positive. God decided to choose a different road for him and he’s embracing that.
What do you think of the talent coming out of Las Vegas?
Whenever anybody asks me, I let them know proudly that I’m from Las Vegas. We’ve got a lot of talent here. I love my city and I want to put them on my back.