Reggie Jackson's stock was fairly low when he landed with the Clippers as a buyout signing at the 2020 trade deadline. He had suffered through a variety of injuries in his final seasons with the Pistons, and after an uneven 2020 postseason, could garner only a minimum-salary deal from the Clippers in free agency. But despite a crowded backcourt and inconsistent performance, the Clippers stuck with Jackson. They started him for the majority of the season and trusted him as a shot-creator in their biggest moments.
They were rewarded for that faith with the best basketball of Jackson's career. He averaged over 21 points per game after Kawhi Leonard went down against Utah, and his clutch shooting helped get the Clippers to Game 6 of the Western Conference finals in the first place. Now Jackson has once again proven that he is a starting-caliber player in the NBA, and after their season ended on Wednesday, he tearfully thanked the team for helping get his career back on track.
"It was the most challenging year. The most fun year. Not sure when you're gonna play. Ups and downs. Guys getting injured. Still finding my way in this locker room. First thing I told those guys was 'thank you for saving me.' I appreciate it. I appreciate every guy in that locker room. I appreciate Paul [George] for getting on that phone last year and the end of the season as time went by in Detroit. I'm thankful for everything I've experienced here.
This city makes me feel at home. This organization welcoming me. My quirks, my strengths, my weaknesses. I'm not here today without this team. I'm not still playing without this team. I thank them for everything. In my heart this will forever be a special year. Like I said, it sucks that we didn't win it, but I ride with those guys. Those guys rode with me all year and I ride with those guys. That's what makes this one tougher. That makes this one extremely tough. To be the ones that, not getting the win, to be the ones at the end of the season, not the ones hoisting the trophy.
I think that group revitalized me. They found ways to push me every day, to challenge me, ask me to be better, encourage me to be better. We became family. This has been an extremely special year under these extremely difficult circumstances that everybody's been under with the pandemic, COVID. Last year at the half, the way this team took me in, the way this core group welcomed me, the way that they've allowed me to be myself, like I said, I'm forever thankful for this group."
Jackson is going to be a free agent this offseason. The Clippers would surely love to have him back next season, but they may not be able to afford him. After spending two years in Los Angeles, the Clippers have only Early Bird Rights on Jackson. That means they can only offer him 105 percent of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception to stay next season. That will work out to roughly $10 million, a fair bit of money, but perhaps not the most he will be offered after such a strong playoff run.
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If Jackson wants to return to the Clippers, he will be welcomed back with open arms. For nearly two full seasons, the absence of a true point guard was heavily felt by their offense. But Jackson emerged to fill that void this postseason, and if the Clippers are healthy next season, they will be among the favorites to hoist the trophy at the end of the season as long as he returns to the fold.