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Jackson making most of fresh start

DALLAS — Former Lincoln great Stephen Jackson is used to changes of scenery.

He had one in high school when he transferred from Lincoln to Oak Hill Academy for his senior season back in 1995 after leading the Bumblebees to the Class 4A state title his junior year. Since then, it’s been nothing but new faces and new places for Jackson in his pro basketball career.

Drafted originally by the Phoenix Suns in 1997, Jackson was one of the final cuts in camp. That started a myriad of stops for him that included stops in the CBA, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic before he caught on with the New Jersey Nets in 2000.

Seven years and four NBA teams later, the 29-year-old finally feels like he’s found a good fit with the Golden State Warriors.

“I might have finally found my home,” Jackson said. “My love for basketball is right where it needs to be again. I can really show everything I can do in my game and I don’t have to limit myself anymore. I can basically do anything out there on the court, especially with the help of my teammates.”

A fresh start may just have been what Jack, as he’s called by his teammates, needed. After helping the San Antonio Spurs when an NBA title in 2003, Jackson signed with Atlanta before being traded to Indiana for 2 1/2 troubled seasons that included the infamous fight in Detroit and a shooting incident outside a strip bar.

The incidents overshadowed Jackson’s production with the Pacers. He averaged a career-high 18.7 points in 2004-05 (the year he was suspended for 30 games) and followed that up by scoring 16.4 points a game last year. But after last October’s strip-club incident, which still hangs over Jackson as he has a court date in May, his time in Indiana was all but over.

“The trade was definitely a blessing in disguise because I needed a new start,” said Jackson, who was part of a seven-player trade January. “Considering everything that happened for me in Indiana, it was the best thing for me at the time.

“I don’t think everyone there was focused on winning. Everyone had their own agendas. There was a lot of stuff that I got involved with and other things that happened to me while I was there in those three short years.”

The problem Jackson encounters now is that people have a preconceived idea of who he is because of his previous problems. He’s booed at games and people expect the worst, which he sometimes fuels.

In Game 1 of the playoffs against Dallas, Jackson locked down most valuable player candidate Dirk Nowitzki while helping lead the Warriors to a victory with 23 points. But in Wednesday night’s Game 2 loss, Jackson was ejected and had to be escorted off the court by teammate Matt Barnes.

Golden State coach Don Nelson, who has been a big supporter of Jackson since the trade, doesn’t want him to have any more episodes like Wednesday.

“We didn’t stay in charge of our emotions,” Nelson said. “We’re not good enough to lose a player like Jackson. We’ll try to do a better job of that in the future. It’s pushing the envelope too far.”

Jackson, however, isn’t about to change who he is for anyone.

“A lot of that stuff will change as time passes,” said Jackson, who still comes to Port Arthur in the summer to see his mother Judyette Jackson and sister Bianca Dixon. “I’ve been through so much in my life to get to this point that those people who don’t like me can’t get to me.

“Since I’ve been out of Indiana, all that stuff is starting to die down.”

With the Warriors, Jackson has taken on the role as the veteran leader. Before the trade, the Warriors were floundering at 19-20. Post-trade Golden State went 23-20 and got into the postseason for the first time since 1994 by winning their season finale.

Jackson played a big role in the turnaround by averaging 16.8 points in 38 games and has had plenty of praised heaped on him by head coach Don Nelson as well as his teammates.

“We know what kind of guy he is and what kind of player he is,” teammate Josh Powell said. “We know what he brings. He just needed a new situation so he could show what he could do. It’s good because he can help show us younger guys what to do.”

Jackson has embraced his new role. He brought his championship ring from 2003 to Dallas to show his teammates what they’re striving for. He said he kind of feels like the David Robinson of the team, the steadying veteran influence.

“What I have now no one can take away from me,” said Jackson, who is in the third year of a six-year, $38 million contract. “I’ve worked too hard for it. Where I came from and where I’ve gone means a lot. That’s what drives me.”

Anthony Andro is a former Port Arthur News sports writer now working for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram