Reggie Jackson traveled to China last week to take part in NBA Nation, the league’s largest touring event for fans.
While there, the Thunder guard took some time to discuss his trip, his preparations for the upcoming season and the ongoing negotiation for his contract extension in an interview with The Oklahoman.
Q: What made you want to participate in NBA Nation this summer?
A: I like to be a part of it anytime I can be. This is the first time they've asked me to do it. So I made sure to make the trip out here, and it's been nothing but love since we got here.
What’s your experience been like in China?
Amazing. I’ve been touring the city. Hitting the museums. Just walking around. Doing a little shopping. Interacting with fans. I did NBA Nation and got to do an NBA Cares event. So it’s just been great trying to understand their culture and how things work over here. I’m just enjoying the experience of being halfway across the world. I’m loving it.
As a member of the Thunder, what’s been the reaction to the team over there in China?
Honestly, I think we’re probably the favorite team over here. That’s how it seems over here. Of course, everybody knows KD and supports him. People know Russell (Westbrook). But most of the time, even through translators, just hearing that we’re the favorite team over here and they consistently watch our games. I think we’re one of the highest televised teams and it really helps with the support. I’m kind of a nobody on our team, but a few fans know me over here just because of how many games are televised. They just love us. That’s been the thing that's been reiterated most is they love our team and how young we are and how we compete and the show that we put on each and every night that we step on the court.
You have a reputation for sleeping. A lot. And especially on planes. What did you do to kill the time getting over there?
Oh man, it was good for me. I’ve been working out. I turned it up the last week to being in the gym for four sessions each day. So that tired me out. I had my Pilates regimen and everything else still going on; lifting each and every day. And then I made sure to stay up as much as I could (before the trip). So I slept 11 of the first 12 hours on the first leg.
How much Chinese have you learned?
Not much. Of course I learned how to say hello. I always kind of knew that. And thank you. But I’m mostly just trying to listen to the translators and figure out body language and things like that. But I’m not fluent. I’m trying to learn a few words here and there. But hopefully I can bring something back to the states with me.
What’s one area of your game you’ve worked on more than any other this summer?
Probably just the pull-up game. Mid-range. I’m still staying consistent working on 3s. I can definitely up my percentage in 3s by cutting down some of the nonsense shots at the end of quarters that aren’t going to have a chance to go in. But just working on the mid-range game. I feel like I’ve improved on my long ball skills and can still improve even more. I want to shoot 40 percent or higher. I’m actually aiming for 50. So hopefully that will put me at 40 percent plus. But I think mid-range. I feel like I worked a lot on my floater. That’s an area I think I’m good at, getting to the basket and shooting floaters and finishing around the rim. But I think the next step for me is being able to shoot pull-ups, especially coming off screens. Our bigs do a great job of getting us open, especially when we have split seconds to make shots. And I think if I’m able to make those, it’ll open the floor and I’ll be able to make reads and make the next pass to the other guy and get the ball moving. I think that’s where we can improve. Russell’s good at it and KD’s good at it. So I think having a third option able to make those shots will just make plays easier for everybody else.
What can we expect to see from you next season?
Probably an even more confident player. Just somebody who’s going to go out there and be free flowing. I think the great players in this league treat it as pick-up. They just go out there and have fun. They don't really think necessarily too much. They just play instinctively. I’m still trying to get better at not beating myself up about plays. Try to learn from them. I’ve got to move on and just continue to play and just correct myself and understand I’ve been playing this game my whole life.
You’ve said that you want to be a starter someday. How do you think it would work starting alongside Russell Westbrook for a full season?
I don’t know. I think we did pretty well with it in that series, the last series for those four games. Unfortunately we didn’t advance and get to continue to play together. But that’s for the coaching staff to think about if that’s what they want to do. But, yeah, I definitely want to be a starter in this league. We’re trying to figure it out.
Is it something that you can see happening next year, or on this team would you be more comfortable coming off the bench?
Nah (laughs). I don’t think about ever coming off the bench for any team. If that’s the role I’m put in, that’s what I’m put in. But since the day I thought about playing in the NBA, I’ve always been a starter. Everything I’ve thought about, whether it be middle school, high school, kids leagues, I never envisioned coming off the bench. When you think about playing basketball, you see the first five guys get on the floor, and that’s something I’ve always prided myself on being. I want to be the best player I can be. I want to be the best player in the world. I don’t think those guys are necessarily coming off the bench. So I’ve never thought about that or even had that idea in the back of my mind.