Reggie Jackson sat down for an interview over All-Star Weekend in New Orleans and issued a revelation that few players ever fess up to, an admission even fewer confess by the time they’ve reached their third NBA season.
“I knew the NBA season was long,” Jackson said during a video interview with NBA.com. “But with this new role I’ve been thrown into, I didn’t understand how long.”
Jackson was admitting fatigue.
For the first time in his career, Jackson is logging heavy minutes and having to figure out how to play them and still be productive. The reserve point guard, who was projected to be the Thunder’s sixth man at the start of the season, instead has started 30 of 58 games this year while filling in for Russell Westbrook. Jackson already has played 1,654 minutes. In 70 games last year, he logged 993 minutes.
The additional duty might partly explain why Jackson, as well as second-year guard Jeremy Lamb, has tailed off in recent weeks after both used the early schedule to establish themselves as pivotal pieces off the bench.
Lamb has played more than eight times as many minutes this season as he did a year ago. He’s tallied, 1,266 minutes compared to last year’s 147.
So he can empathize with what Jackson is feeling.
“At times, yeah, you feel fatigued,” Lamb said.
This could be the downside to the Thunder slow-playing its players’ development. The proverbial “rookie wall” doesn’t hit in Year One. It shows up in Year Two and Three. And when it finally arrives, it hits with force, leaving the players in unexpected funks and the fans to try to figure out what in the world is up.
But fatigue is a natural obstacle that all young players must overcome. Most young players run into that hurdle as rookies. But rookies competing with the championship-contending Thunder for the last three years had a delay.
Lamb ranked 26th last year among rookies from the 2012 draft class in minutes played. Perry Jones III ranked 23rd. Among rookies from the 2011 draft class, Jackson also ranked 23rd.
It should be no surprise then that Lamb and Jackson have hit a bump in the road.
Lamb is averaging just seven points on 36.1 percent shooting in 10 February games. He’s scored in double figures only twice this month and is shooting just 29 percent on 3-point attempts.
Jackson, meanwhile, has been wildly erratic while bouncing between the second unit and the first string. His field-goal percentage has dipped every month this season, to its current low of 40.3 percent this month, and he’s averaged just eight points on 30 percent shooting in the three games since Westbrook returned and moved him back to the bench.