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Justin Jackson and the veteran’s calm

Let’s show JJ some love

Kimani Okearah

Sacramento Kings forward Justin Jackson has broken out of an early season slump and become an indispensable part of the Kings guard rotation. Kings fans have noticed the turnaround, and the national media is noticing as well.

In his weekly 10 Things column, ESPN’s Zach Lowe highlighted Jackson’s recent play.

It’s time to start paying attention. Jackson is shooting 37 percent from deep, perhaps closing the biggest hole his game. Most of those looks are wide open. That will change as he gains respect. When opponents run him off the line, Jackson proceeds with a veteran’s calm.

He has a killer floater. If a big man barricades the paint, Jackson is comfortable pulling up for short jumpers. He makes the next pass, and works hard on the other end.

Lowe says more about JJ if you check out his article, but there’s a line in there that really stood out to me. “Jackson proceeds with a veteran’s calm”. It’s such a perfect way to describe Jackson’s game, and I think it also explains why fans were so frustrated with JJ at the start of the year.

Justin Jackson isn’t the most expressive player on the floor. He’s not quite John Salmons, but on the emotive spectrum he falls much close to Salmons than to DeMarcus Cousins. When things are going poorly, it gets interpreted as JJ not caring. And let’s be clear, JJ started the season terribly. He shot 20.7% on 3.6 threes per game in October. But JJ continued playing with that veteran’s calm, taking shots he knew we good shots, and they started falling.

Now that he’s playing better (JJ has shot over 40% from three every month since and has become a pesky defender) that demeanor gets attributed to being unflappable, unafraid of the moment, clutch, or whatever other adjectives we want to assign it.

It’s a valuable reminder about the folly of narratives, but it’s a lesson we as fans are prone to forget. For now though, it’s great seeing Jackson playing well, and great seeing him get the recognition he’s earned.