MILWAUKEE Following the Milwaukee Bucks' 105-95 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night, Stephen Jackson waved the growing crowd of reporters toward his locker.
He didn't want to answer questions twice, he said.
There was plenty to ask the veteran shooting guard after he played all of 17 minutes, went 0 for 6 from the field and watched the entire second half from the bench as coach Scott Skiles tried to inject a little life into a punchless Bucks lineup.
Jackson had plenty to say, too.
"If they want to blame it on somebody, I'll take the blame," Jackson said. "I guess they expected me to spaz out and go crazy, but it's too late in the game for that. I don't know what they were trying to prove. When he (Skiles) didn't play me, my thoughts were to support the young fellas and support everybody out there and try to get this win.
"If they want to make it personal, they can. I'm used to it."
At first glance, it seemed as if Jackson was finally living up to his reputation as a brash, outspoken player whose only focus is on himself. But his frustration after that game came from a place much, much deeper than a lack of playing time.
Plain and simple, Jackson absolutely hates losing.
"That's just me caring," Jackson said at practice Thursday. "I hate losing because I love to win. Anyone who comes into this game and is going to settle for losing, I don't want to be on their team. That's how much I appreciate the game. I play it the right way, and I play it hard all the time. That's just the way I was taught."
Skiles and Jackson spoke following Jackson's comments Tuesday night, and both say there is no issue or dispute between them. And Skiles, also known for being intense, has no issue with Jackson's decision to speak his mind.
"I know Jack wants to win, no matter what he says after a game," Skiles said Thursday. "I'm not concerned about him. You would hope that everybody is upset about losing."
The Bucks acquired Jackson, 33, from Charlotte on draft day as part of a three-team trade that sent Corey Maggette to the Bobcats and John Salmons to the Sacramento Kings. It was hoped that the 12th-year pro would bring some much-needed scoring punch to one of last season's lowest-scoring teams.
A career 16.2-point-per-game scorer, Jackson is averaging just 13.7 through his first 13 games in Milwaukee while shooting a career-low 36.8 percent. His 3-point accuracy is down, too 29.2 percent this season compared to 33.8 percent for his career.
Jackson, though, insists his numbers aren't his focus. For him, it's all about the team, and his teammates echo the sentiment.
"He'll do anything for his teammates," point guard Brandon Jennings said. "You can respect that from a guy. He's not used to losing. He's used to winning and being on winning teams. It's important that we all come together and play our part also."
The Bucks have not exactly wowed anyone during their 4-9 start. They have only two victories in the past 10 games, and many have written off the team in a lockout-shortened season. Jackson, however, sees things a little differently. He says he's part of a collection of talented players dedicated to working hard, a group that has bought into the concept Skiles is trying to implement.
"I'm not going to lie and say we don't have all the pieces to the puzzle," Jackson said. "We just have to figure out how to put it all together. That's the hardest part. It's going to be a challenge for us, but I just hope everybody's up for it."
After he was traded to the Bucks on draft day, there was speculation Jackson was unhappy with coming to Milwaukee. He quickly corrected that perception and insists he's just happy to be with a team that wants to win.
Beyond that, he's hoping that aside from his ability to score, which is what made him attractive to the Bucks in the first place, he can help develop some chemistry within a young and somewhat inexperienced locker room.
"We need to spend just as much time off the court as we do on the court," Jackson said. "I think that makes the team better. It's easier to trust a guy. You get closer, you know him better. It's just something I've always been good at, bringing the guys together and letting them know that, hey, during the season, we're with each other more than we're with our own families. We have to respect each other and be there for each other all year."
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