Darnell Jackson’s spot on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ roster has always been tenuous. The former Midwest City High star and Kansas University postman hadn’t played much this season and hasn’t made a basket since November.
Now the Cavs re-signing of Zydrunas Ilgauskas has cost Jackson his job. Cleveland released Jackson Tuesday to make room for Ilgauskas, who was released by Washington after being dealt to the Wizards in the Antwan Jamison deal.
Fortunately for Jackson, this probably is not the end of the road. At 6-foot-9, Jackson is a big-body banger. His reputation as a good teammate in both Cleveland and at Kansas, where he was part of the Jayhawks’ 2008 NCAA championship team, could open other NBA opportunities. And just last week Jackson was lighting it up in the D-League, averaging 33 points and 12 rebounds in two games for the Erie Bayhawks before he was recalled by Cleveland. Spending most of the last two seasons practicing against LeBron James can’t hurt a guy’s skill development either.
Could there be opportunity for Jackson in his hometown? It’s a natural question. There certainly doesn’t appear to be a spot in the Thunder rotation for Jackson. Forward D.J. White can’t even crack it. Kyle Weaver won’t be when James Harden returns But is there room on the roster? Oklahoma City has been rotating players through on 10-day contracts the last month or so — first Antonio Anderson, now Mustafa Shakur — so why not try Jackson? It’s clear that OKC would rather not play center Etan Thomas, whose contract expires after this season, and 7-footer Byron Mullens is gaining experience in Tulsa with the D-League 66ers and isn’t ready to contribute to a team striving for the playoffs.
But here are the factors that make me think the idea of bringing Jackson to Oklahoma City is at least being vetted by the Thunder: Character and connections. The Thunder places a premium on high-character players. And Sam Presti’s connections to Jackson, through his associations with Kansas (all Spurs connections run through Lawrence) and the Cavaliers (GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Brown worked with Presti in San Antonio) guarantee this: He’ll know everything he wants and needs to know about Darnell Jackson.