Suns winger Josh Jackson talks about who he’s reached out to for advice and help.
Duane Rankin, Montgomery Advertiser
Phoenix Suns wing Josh Jackson has several go-to people to share his feelings and emotions about what’s happening with him.
- Teammates: Trevor Ariza. Jamal Crawford.
- NBA friends: Draymond Green. Andrew Wiggins.
- Family: Mom. Grandmother. Cousins.
With the way this season has started, Jackson’s found himself reaching out more to those he trusts to help through what has been a tough start for him.
“Mom just tells me to stay focused,” said Jackson of Apples Jones. “Worry about the things I can control. She knows that a lot of things that happens out there aren’t always in my control and she knows that I worry about stuff a lot. I tend to let it get to me too much. So she just tells me to keep my head, stay cool and worry about the things I can control.”
Jackson said he’s just trying to find his place on the team. He played only seven minutes in Phoenix’s 22-point loss Tuesday to the Brooklyn Nets.
“He’s got to keep himself ready,” Suns first-year coach Igor Kokoskov said.
Kokoskov liked how Jackson practiced Wednesday after playing so few minutes.
“Sometimes it’s hard to play 11 guys, 10 guys,” Kokoskov said. “The game determines who is going to play, but that’s not what he controls. The game controls that and then you have to make decisions, but his response (Wednesday) was good. He came ready to practice and play and keep himself ready.”
Jackson came off his rookie season looking to win the NBA’s Most Improved award. The wiry 6-foot, 8-inch wing worked on his catch-and-shoot 3-ball and it paid early dividends in Phoenix’s win over the Dallas Mavericks to open the season.
He scored 18 points, hit back-to-back 3s in the fourth to help put away the Mavericks, but has since struggled with his shot — and in other areas, too.
Entering Thursday’s game against the Boston Celtics, Jackson was shooting 41.1 from the field, while going 6 of 23 from 3. Averaging just 7.4 points a game, Jackson made half of those threes on four attempts in the opener.
Jackson is shooting 53.3 percent from the free-throw line and has 31 turnovers to only 20 assists. He’s also seen a decrease in his minutes, but he said his confidence hasn’t wavered.
“I know I’m here for a reason,” said Jackson, who averaged 13.1 points in earning NBA all-rookie second-team honors last season.
“I got picked where I got picked for a reason. I struggled with that last year a lot, (but) I have vets around me, coaches, just talking to me about it all the time. Telling me just to be cool. Just stay focused and keep working and that’s what I’m going to keep doing.”
Ariza has been that veteran teammate Jackson has leaned on, but he talks to his newest teammate, who was his favorite player growing up, as well — Jamal Crawford.
“The first day he showed up, the first day he got here, I had actually never met Jamal before,” Jackson said. “Seeing him the locker room, he was getting dressed and soon as he saw me, he had this big smile, gave me high five and said my name and all that. That felt really good.”
At that moment, Jackson had one thought.
Oh my God, he knows me.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said a smiling Jackson.
Away from the Suns, Green and Wiggins, who starred at Kansas (2013-14) before Jackson did the same as a one-and-done (2016-17), are in Jackson’s ear.
“Just be the person that I am,” said Jackson about what Green’s consistent message is to him. “Be ready to play every game.”
Kokoskov has asked Jackson to be a “basketball player” and not to try to do too much. That’s not always easy for the 2017 fourth overall pick out of Kansas.
“Sometimes, I find myself going a little too fast out there and I get excited,” Jackson said. “I try to make a play that’s not always there. Just trying to make the simple plays and just slowing down a little bit. I think I move a little too fast sometimes.”
Jackson is on his third NBA head coach already in just his second NBA season. His first, Earl Watson, was fired after an 0-3 start last season, Jay Triano then served as the interim and Kokoskov was hired in May.
The two are still working to be on the same page.
“It’s getting better, definitely not where it should be,” Jackson said. “We’re in the beginning of the season. He’s new, I’m new. My second year in the league. Like I said, it’s a lot we’re still trying to figure out. We’re all still getting used to each other, but every day, I think we’re making progress.”
What Kokoskov has in Jackson is a player that feeds off energy and excitement. Jackson named Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Richaun Holmes, Isaiah Canaan as teammates he thinks have that in them, too.
With Kokoskov questioning the teams energy and effort on several occasions already this season, maybe Jackson can focus more on providing that to help Phoenix in that area.
“I think we’re still trying to figure each other out,” Jackson said. “I’m just trying to get in where I fit in right now, find my place on the team and do what I can do.”