ORLANDO — Reggie Jackson emerged from the locker room sporting a shiner and three stitches above a left eye that was swollen halfway shut.
Thirty minutes earlier, a stream of blood had streaked down the side of his face, the result of a laceration he obtained in a clumsy collision with Thunder teammate Daniel Orton.
It was the culmination of a trying day that never needed to be for Jackson.
The third-year point guard, making his debut at the 2013 Orlando Pro Summer League on Monday, trudged through a largely woeful performance, a nightmarish outing from which only his second-half injury could save him.
Jackson's final stat line in the Thunder's 79-78 win over Orlando credited him for four points on 2-for-7 shooting. He had four rebounds, four assists and four fouls. He committed seven turnovers in just 17 minutes.
“You're going to have growing pains,” Jackson said. “Today, even back there getting stitches, I still was feeling confidence in myself. You have bad games. I had a terrible game. But oh well. You can't do nothing about it right now. I just got to move on and try to get better from it.”
Jackson didn't always have that approach.
But that's why Jackson is in Orlando this week. That's why Jackson, after a promising playoff debut, suited up for summer league again when he easily could have left it alone.
The Thunder asked Jackson to be a part of the group once again this year and he graciously accepted. The team extended the invitation knowing that Jackson was capable of imparting wisdom upon his younger teammates.
Though he too has much to improve upon, Jackson's lone goal this week is simple.
“Be a leader,” he said.
By the end of the week, Jackson might find that he got more out of giving his time than he provided the young players he's giving it to. With an expected role increase — potentially as the team's newest sixth man — Jackson can only benefit from spending a week as a leader.
Kevin Martin is set to sign in Minnesota, and the keys to the second unit could now belong to Jackson. At a minimum, and for the first time, he'll be Russell Westbrook's primary backup from opening night.
The prospects of that promotion no longer send Jackson into a panic.
“Collectively, we have to go in there and get better at our positions that we're thrown into and hopefully we produce,” Jackson said. “But it's no added pressure. You can't do that to yourself.”
Jackson knows because he's been down that road before, two years ago as a rookie. When then-backup Eric Maynor sustained a season-ending knee injury, Jackson was thrust into emergency duty. Let's just say he didn't perform so great.
Jackson looks back on those days now and sees a totally different person.
“It was a person that was trying to be somebody who he wasn't,” Jackson said. “I felt the pressure of doing everything for the team, just coming in and being Eric Maynor rather than being myself. Now, I'm comfortable in my own skin. I am who I am. I'm going to try to learn but I'm happy to be who I am and I'm just going to have fun with it.”
There's plenty of time for Jackson to develop his ball-handling, decision-making and perimeter shooting. But this week, he's teaching his recent draft picks Steven Adams, Andre Roberson and Grant Jerrett some of the lessons he had to learn the hard way.
Keep playing. Stay hungry. Never be satisfied.
And he's leading by example, which is why with a shiner, three stitches and a left eye still swollen halfway shut Jackson stubbornly said he's just ready to get back on the floor Tuesday.
“I still got one eye,” he said. “I can see the floor with one eye. I'm good.”