Stephen Jackson played with a heavy heart on Thursday. (Noah Graham/NBA/Getty Images)When Stephen Jackson left the San Antonio Spurs prior to their Feb. 11 matchup with the Chicago Bulls for "personal reasons," you had to wonder what exactly was going on with the 34-year-old swingman. Not only were the Spurs in the middle of their annual "Rodeo Road Trip," typically a galvanizing and important stretch for one of the West's top teams, but as Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News noted, we're talking about someone who once tried to practice the day after being hit by a car; for him to leave in the middle of a road trip, especially just a couple of games before the All-Star break, something pretty serious had to be up.
We know now, unfortunately, that "pretty serious" doesn't begin to cover it. As McDonald's Express-News colleague Mike Monroe reported, Jackson returned to the Spurs for their Thursday night matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers after missing the prior three games to be with his wife, Renata, who last week suffered a miscarriage and lost the child she had been carrying for 6 1/2 months. It would have been the Jacksons' first child.
“I’m as good as I can be,” Jackson said before Thursday’s Spurs-Clippers game at Staples Center. “I’m happy to be back with the team. I need to be back with the team, just for my own sanity. Basketball and being around these guys helps me a lot, so it’s definitely something I needed.”
Jackson learned of the loss while the Spurs were on the first phase of the rodeo road trip. He left the team after it arrived in Chicago for a game Feb. 11, missing games in Chicago, Cleveland and Sacramento. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told Jackson to take as much time away from the team as he needed.
“It was an unfortunate situation,” Jackson said. “Very frustrating and emotional and I’m nowhere close to being over it.
“My wife is not doing too well, so I’m happy I had a coach like Pop who gave me the time to be with her. In order for me to help her I also have to help myself because this was a baby we were definitely looking forward to having. Being back with the team hopefully is going to help me be able to help my wife even more.”
Jackson told Monroe that Hall of Fame center and longtime teammate Tim Duncan called him every day he was away, and emphasized the supportive, familial atmosphere created by the Spurs — from owner Peter Holt, general manager R.C. Buford and Popovich down the line to the support staff and, of course, his fellow teammates — as an important part of helping he and his wife cope in what is, very obviously, an insanely difficult time. We've long known that loyalty is a trait Jackson prizes above virtually all other things — he wouldn't have followed Ron Artest into the stands or brandished a gun to protect Jamaal Tinsley if it wasn't — and it is, if nothing else, warming to hear that the San Antonio organization has responded in kind, affording Jackson the time to be with his wife and attempt to get their arms around unimaginable pain.
[Also: Tony Parker for MVP? Naaah]
You often hear players talk about the court as a shelter from the storm when tragedy strikes; I hope it serves as one for Jackson, although it's difficult to imagine there being any place where this kind of heartache wouldn't reach you, especially with the loss so recent and fresh. Our thoughts, prayers and well-wishes are with Jackson and his family.
Jackson had five points on 2 for 6 shooting, three rebounds, three steals and two assists in 19 1/2 minutes of play as the Spurs blew out the Clippers, 116-90, on Thursday night.
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