NZ Breakers' Jackson rated as 'NBA-ready'
Cedric Jackson's historic triple-double in the face of the much-hyped Jonny Flynn at the NSEC on Friday night may have a serious downside for the New Zealand Breakers.
It was a performance, reckoned his team-mates, that had basketball's three most defining letters written all over it. N-B-A.
The reality, say the Breakers' two most experienced players, is that Jackson has the game that will surely see him back in the association. And the more he reinforces it with dazzling displays like he produced in a 94-64 romp against Flynn's Melbourne Tigers, the more likely it is someone in that league will find a roster spot to offer him.
In the meantime the back-to-back Australian NBL champions from Auckland, and their growing legion of fans, should appreciate the special player they have in their midst, says veteran forward Dillon Boucher.
It's unlikely Jackson will get any dramatic call-ups before he gets the chance to lead the Breakers to their tilt at the title threepeat, but after posting the club's first triple-double, and just the second since the league went to 40-minute games, there's a consensus he's now what they call NBA-ready.
"There's no doubt he's good enough to be in the NBA," said Boucher, as thrilled as the rest of us after getting a close-up look at arguably the finest individual display in a Breakers singlet.
Jackson, in just 25 minutes and 46 seconds, rattled up 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting and added 10 rebounds, 10 assists and four steals in a virtuoso performance.
"He was unbelievable," said Boucher, reaching for an adjective he would go back to. "Some of the moves, let alone getting a triple-double, were unreal. The energy he had and to sustain it for the whole game was just unbelievable. We definitely should savour him.
"We would love the Breakers to be the last stop for him on the way to the NBA. That would be the ultimate, to show we had the calibre of guy like that and we had a hand in helping get him to the NBA."
Three-time Olympian C J Bruton says the NBA scouts would have been watching, if only to check out Flynn, the former No 6 draft choice of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
"There's no doubt he's good enough," said Bruton of a team-mate he's taken under his wing. "If he keeps going on this path he'll put himself in a category where they simply won't be able to deny him."
Jackson has had just three short-term stints in the NBA, and last off-season was unable to make it past the San Antonio Spurs' summer league programme.
But Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis has a theory about that.
"In sport often it's about being in the right place at the right time and being seen by the right person. That's how life goes."
Lemanis says what makes Jackson great, and what may eventually win the NBA over, is that he contributes in so many ways.
"He's active off the ball, he reads the game well, he anticipates, he steals, he helps - for a point guard he rebounds unbelievably well and offensively his ability to get in the lane makes him a handful."
Said Jackson after Friday night's challenge: "I was excited, playing against a home-town kid. It's been a long time since I've seen him [Flynn], not since college.
"So having a chance to play against him again reminded me of back home.
"But I didn't want to turn this into a one-on-one thing. I've played this game long enough to realise you win games with your team. I was just being aggressive, and as soon as they stopped me the guys were wide open and they were aggressive too. That was kinda satisfying."
A satisfying night for all concerned, as the Breakers improved to 8-2 and Jackson underlined his status as the league MVP.
- Sunday Star Times
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