“Reggie is ready,” Kevin Durant predicted at the time. And his young point guard backed up those wise words, averaging 15.3 points and 3.6 assists in 36.2 minutes over the next nine games.
The Thunder were eliminated in the second round by Memphis. But no one was blaming Jackson.
“He seized the opportunity,” Presti told reporters after the series. “Obviously, it was unfortunate circumstances in which he was thrust into real action, but I think it bodes well that he was able to handle that situation and perform.”
The biggest thing that playoff run did, in Jackson's eyes, was bump up his confidence after what he called “probably the most frustrating two years of my basketball career as a player.”
“Now I know I belong,” Jackson said at Media Day, admitting he used to feel “that I only belonged sometimes, against certain guys. In the back of my mind, having a mustard seed of doubt …(Now) I'm OK if I mess up that I can move on to the next play.”
But beyond the next play is the next stage. He's entering a new phase of his career.
Veteran sharpshooter Kevin Martin is gone, signing with Minnesota in free agency. And Jackson is next in line, sliding into the role of bench scorer, expected to ignite the second-unit.
He's still young (23) and inexperienced (115 career games, 13 minutes a night). So growing pains likely await.
But it's the talent that has Thunder brass so excited. And it's the trust that has Jackson so confident.
“I think the belief they had in me and then kind of instilled more belief in myself,” Jackson said. “Once you make a few good plays, you start figuring out that there are some things someone saw in you to bring you to the NBA.”