Don’t feel bad if you didn’t realize how well Justin Jackson played in his summer league debut Friday night for the Kings against the Phoenix Suns.
Summer league coach Jason March missed out on it, too.
“After the game (Friday) night, I walked out of the gym and I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to get Justin involved in the game; I’ve got to get him more involved,’ ” March said. “I felt bad and then I pulled the box score out of my pocket and I look at the score and he had 18 (points).”
The 6-foot-8 small forward from North Carolina wasn’t flashy like fellow rookie De’Aaron Fox, who also had 18 points. But Jackson knows how to create offense even when plays aren’t called for him.
“That’s just kind of been how I’ve always played,” Jackson said. “Keep moving, find your spots, take advantage whenever you have a chance. (Friday) night, that was kind of an example of that as far as whether a play is ran for me or not, I’m going to find the open spot and if I get a chance try to take advantage of that opportunity.”
Jackson shot 7 for 11 and finished without any turnovers. That makes March curious what Jackson can do when he’s emphasized on offense.
“The next time we don’t want it to be so sneaky,” March said. “I’m going to call some stuff for him, get him involved early. I can do that by calling his number more right out the gate. But I’ve got to tell you, coach (Dave) Joerger is going to love having a guy that you don’t have to call something for to get him involved. He knows how to play; he knows what he’s doing. He’s very composed, very mature and it’s fun to have him out there.”
After years of collecting isolation-minded players, the Kings want to be versatile on offense with players finding openings away from the ball, and Jackson will help.
“It shows you he knows how to play,” March said. “We’re going to see more and more from him as we move forward, but he knows how to play, he knows how to cut, he’s a smart player, knows every play already. It’s going to be an exciting week for him, for sure.”
Jackson is Sacramento’s tallest wing player, and that could help him earn playing time in his rookie season.
“I’m just trying to be a guy who can come in and contribute in whatever way is possible,” Jackson said. “Whether that’s scoring when I need to or passing the ball, whatever it might be. So if I can do that, I’ll be all right.”
And he’ll be noticed.