Jackson itching to get started

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:10 PM ET

DALLAS - Whenever this championship series between the Mavs and Heat ends, Mark Jackson, who briefly played the point position in Toronto, will begin his long-awaited career behind the bench of an NBA team.

Up until his appointment by the Golden State Warriors, Jackson’s name occasionally was linked with vacancies, a guy whose background as a floor general makes him an ideal candidate, a guy who takes over a Warriors team amid rumours of a potential deal with Philly involving Monta Ellis and Andre Iguodala.

When Jackson was enticed by free agency back in the Lenny Wilkens era of Raptors basketball, he saw Steph Curry before practice, after practice and prior to every home game heave shots from spots NBA players couldn’t execute.

There’s a familiarity with Curry, but as Jackson begins a new career chapter, leaving his position as an NBA analyst, he’s not quite sure when he’ll be able to coach the likes of a Curry.

Under the backdrop of a series that has pulled in huge television numbers in the U.S. hovers this labour cloud, an unresolved issue that could lead to a complete stoppage in any off-season activity if the current deal expires on July 1.

“Very concerned,” Jackson has expressed during this NBA final at the prospect of a lockout. “It’s been an all-time great season from top to bottom. You can’t go anywhere where people are not talking about the great stories that have occurred throughout the course of the year.

“It’s important ownership, management, players, the union get together and try to keep this momentum going. I think there’s more than enough money available to make a deal where everybody will be happy. It’s going to be interesting.”

Commissioner David Stern referred to last week’s meeting in Miami as the first full-blown negotiating session, a meeting that brought together members of both management and the union, owners and players.

A guy like Jackson, it goes without saying, doesn’t want any kind of stoppage with so much work that needs to be done in Golden State.

The Las Vegas Summer League, where the Raptors have annually fielded a team, has been scrapped.

But at least the sides are talking, the latest round of talks being held in Dallas when the series shifted to Texas.

“Let’s get them all in a room and say: ‘Fellas, do you understand what’s at risk here? Do you understand what’s going on in society today? Do you know how many people are hurting and struggling?’” Jackson said. “I’d bring football people in the same room and say: ‘Okay, let’s find a way to get this done.’ We can get it done where everybody’s happy and continue to keep the momentum going.”

Only money can derail the momentum produced by this spring’s post-season run.

Owners are crying poor, claiming only a system featuring a hard salary cap can save themselves from doling out the cash marginal players are making.

The union disputes the losses owners allegedly have suffered.

A first-year coach such as Jackson will undoubtedly suffer if a lockout does happen.

The Warriors, under new owner Joe Lacob, are in the midst of change.

The energetic owner has added Jerry West to his staff and Jackson will breathe fresh air into an environment that grew stale.

“He (Jackson) had a tremendous connection with Joe,’’ West said. “And he’s a very smart guy, he played in the league for 17 years, for a number of coaches. He’s a player who played in the league a long time in his head. And I think we all have had glowing reports from people who think he’s really good.”

Maybe Jackson will follow in Doc Rivers’ path, from NBA point guard to well respected TV analyst to a top-flight coach.

It’ll be hard to judge Jackson if there’s no season or if any interruption causes a shortened season such as the 1998 season, the last time the NBA had a labour issue that went unresolved.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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