This was the Justin Jackson we remember from summer league.
The Jackson who, without making much noise or having plays called for him, found ways to score.
Jackson did that Monday night with a team-high 16 points in the Kings’ 97-83 preseason loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at Golden 1 Center.
Jackson made five of his 10 shots Monday. He was 2 for 16 in his first two preseason outings. But with all the veterans sitting out Monday, Jackson looked more like the player that showed flashes of being a contributor during the summer.
“For me it’s definitely playing within the offense, knowing that things will come,” Jackson said. “If I can do that, I think I’ll be just fine.”
How much playing time Jackson will see once the regular season starts is uncertain. If coach Dave Joerger leans on veterans like Garrett Temple, Vince Carter and rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic on the wing, Jackson might find his early-season opportunities come with the Reno Bighorns.
That won’t change the qualities the Kings like about Jackson and how he’ll fit in the future.
“He’s an excellent cutter,” Joerger said of Jackson. “He’s a good player. He can play off other people. As a good cutter, if he makes some shots, and he’s been struggling, he hasn’t lost his confidence. He’s putting in his work everyday. He’s almost an overworker, just a great guy to have in our culture and our program.”
Jackson’s greatest physical challenge will be dealing with the physicality of the NBA. At 6-foot-8 and 210 pounds, Jackson (like many of the Kings young and old) will often struggle with the strength of opposing wing players.
“It’s definitely more physical,” Jackson said. “It’s different. It’s a lot more physical but there seems to be a lot more fouls being called. It’s something to definitely get used to and we’ll keep on trying to learn and see how the refs call each game so we’ll see.”
Monday’s game was a good test for Jackson. The Blazers have some experienced players that could bother him like Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless and Evan Turner.
“They’re long, athletic, they try to be really physical,” Jackson said. “So as far as body type I’m pretty similar to the way they are. It was definitely good to go against somebody that was kind of like size, like body type. So each time I go against somebody I’ve just to be ready to go against them.”
Cleaning the Glass
Rebounding is an area that could give the Kings problems in the regular season. They were outrebounded 48-39 by the Blazers, but Joerger did like the effort.
“I thought Skal (Labissiere) did a nice job on the glass,” Joerger said. “You know he’s outweighed so-to-speak, but he went and went. And the number isn’t as high as many times as he went, which was good for us and good for him — he went to the glass hard.”
Labissiere finished with seven rebounds. Willie Cauley-Stein led the Kings with eight rebounds. The starting backcourt of Frank Mason and Buddy Hield had five boards apiece.
More work needed
Ideally, a team that just played back-to-back games as the Kings did would take the following day off. Joerger said before the game the Kings cannot afford to do that right now. There’s a lot of work to put in before the Oct. 18 season opener against Houston, so there’s not much time for rest.
How long would Joerger like to have? He’s said more than once six weeks would be great, usually with a smile. But he’s serious about needing more time with this group.
By time the regular season starts, they will have been together a little more than three weeks.