Before we know what role rookie guard Reggie Jackson will have this season, the 24th overall pick must first join training camp.
The 6-foot-3 point guard out of Boston College missed the Oklahoma City Thunder's first two days of practice because his contract had yet to be finalized. The Thunder finally signed Jackson on Saturday, which signals the official beginning to his NBA career.
But the road ahead could be filled with pot holes and speed bumps for Jackson.
The 149-day NBA lockout cost rookies like Jackson both important playing time when summer leagues were canceled and invaluable professional training when the annual rookie transition program was wiped out. Coming into camp, Jackson was faced with only eight days of practices before the team's dress rehearsals began on Dec. 18 — and there are only two of those.
Now, Jackson will need to play catch up whenever he can take the floor. Not exactly the best set of circumstances for a rookie looking to carve out an already improbable role on a championship-caliber team with a loaded roster.
“The competition level will be higher for him,” said Thunder general manager Sam Presti. “He has a shortened training camp, so there won't be as much time. I'll be interested to see how he reacts to those situations, how he progresses through it.”
Guaranteed playing time for rookies came to an end two years ago. With Russell Westbrook and Eric Maynor at point guard, there don't appear to be minutes at the lead guard spot for Jackson. And with James Harden and Thabo Sefolosha manning the shooting guard position, Jackson might still be squeezed out despite his ability to play off the ball.
But here's where the lockout might be beneficial. Because the league constructed a shortened 66-game schedule filled with back-to-backs and a handful of three games in three nights, coach Scott Brooks might have to rely more on his bench this season. Brooks used a nine-man rotation for much of last year but expanded it to 10 toward the end of the year. This year, Brooks may have to reduce minutes even more to preserve his players' bodies for the playoffs. But it's still much too early to know how it will all shake out and what it might mean for Jackson.
“I haven't seen him other than when we worked him out (before the draft),” Brooks said. “We're excited about having him. Sam does a great job of putting this team together, and he's another piece that is going to be important. There's opportunities. He has to earn them. He has to fight for them. But we're looking forward to having him.”