When Reggie Jackson became a free agent and hit the buyout market late last season, he was pursued by several contending teams.
One contender that wanted to sign Jackson? The Milwaukee Bucks.
Giannis Antetokonmpo tried hard to recruit Jackson to the Bucks, league sources told DNVR. The two-time MVP badly wanted him in Milwaukee.
Of course, Jackson opted for Denver. And the Nuggets are glad he did.
Jackson returned to the Nuggets on a free-agent deal last summer. Now, he’s Denver’s starting point guard with Jamal Murray out for at least the next couple of weeks with a strained hamstring. Wednesday night against the Warriors, Jackson was instrumental in the Nuggets securing a hard-fought 108-105 victory that moved Denver to 8-1 on the season.
Jackson finished with 20 points (3-7 3FGs), 6 assists, and 0 turnovers in 32 minutes.
“I think Reggie’s been fantastic for us,” Michael Malone said.
Jackson was especially good in Wednesday’s fourth quarter. He played the entire 12 minutes and tallied a team-high 10 points (4-6 FGs). He teamed up with Nikola Jokic on several late-game two-man actions that had Jackson emulating the starting point guard that he’s filling in for.
“I think he’s just that damn good,” Jackson said about building chemistry with Jokic. “He’s making me look like I know what I’m doing out there.”
Jackson’s not giving himself enough credit. When he signed with the Nuggets late last year, he might not have had a full grasp of Mile High Basketball. But after a full offseason spent in Denver, he’s now aligned with the roster and has been fully indoctrinated into the Nuggets’ on-court philosophy.
Over the summer, Jackson had a chance to pick the brain of every member of the Nuggets’ coaching staff. He says he was able to gain a better understanding of why the Nuggets play the way they do and the purpose behind their offense.
“I think he feels so much more comfortable than he did coming in with 23 games to go last year,” Malone said.
Jackson was used to being “the quarterback” of the offense, as he describes it. Throughout his career, he’s always had the ball in his hands. As the point guard, Jackson has typically been the one making all the reads and decisions.
But it’s different in Denver and within an offense that’s built around Jokic.
He now thinks of his role as a “receiver,” and Jackson has been focused on trying to understand what Jokic sees from his perspective and why he sees it.
Jackson’s doing what he needs to do to fit into the Nuggets’ offense. Setting screens, playing off the ball, creating mismatches, and being in the right spots when he’s playing alongside the back-to-back MVP are all aspects of Denver’s attack that Jackson’s working to implement into his game.
Those are the pillars of the Nuggets’ offense. They’re what you need to be mindful of when playing alongside the greatest player in the world.
“I’m very thankful that I spent my summer here,” Jackson said.
An offseason of studying Jokic Ball has translated into a promising start for the 12-year veteran. Jackson is providing what the Nuggets need from their backup and now starting point guard.
“He spent all offseason in Denver when he could have been moving all around,” Michael Porter Jr. said. “He stayed here, learned our offense, and it’s showing. It’s paying off for him.”
Jackson feels like a Nugget now. One of the reasons that he originally came to Denver and ended up re-signing with the Nuggets was a strong relationship with the team’s coaching staff. Malone has a healthy respect for Jackson too. You feel that he trusts Jackson to fit into whatever lineup he’s playing with.
Denver doesn’t beat the Warriors — the Nuggets’ seventh game in 11 days — without Jackson’s shot-making and point guard play. Jackson has 38 assists to just 10 turnovers this season. The Nuggets have outscored their opponent by 72 points in the 207 minutes Jackson has been on the floor for.
Jackson has been showing his value night in and night out. He’s proving that he still has a lot to offer.
“Proving myself that I can still play and that I can be effective with this team and this style of play,” Jackson said about his mindset coming into this year. “I just want to prove that I can help this team.”