What I like about my new look, new squad — The Undefeated
The pressure to live up to the hype to be the fourth choice in the 2017 draft. The roller coaster ride as a rookie in the NBA. The challenges of already having three head coaches in his young career.
Josh Jackson, the Phoenix Suns forward who went for his first haircut in four years last off-season, is ready for a fresh start. He hopes he can help the Suns emerge from the dark clouds along with budding star Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, # 1 of 2018 and new coach Igor Kokoskov.
Working with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, Jackson will, in his own words, give readers an exclusive glimpse into his second season. The 22-year-old from Detroit isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind. He once spoke to Hall of Famer Gary Payton about trash when he was playing for a prep school in Napa, California of all places.
“I feel like a lot of people don’t know me,” Jackson says. “That’s part of the reason I keep this diary.”
The following is its first entry.
“How good is he? How good will he be? Can he really win? “
I think this is a big year for me to answer these questions.
This summer I dedicated myself to the hard work to get better and to show that I made a big leap from last season into this season. Hopefully I can come out and show all I can do.
I had a little bit of trouble during my rookie year and it wasn’t all my fault. I now have my third coach in a year. It was quite difficult to cope with the coaching changes last year. There were so many new things that came our way so quickly. At the same time we play all these games, fly, fly across the country.
One of the biggest challenges was the difference in strength between me and some of the seasoned players I had faced. I’ve had a lot of tough matchups because these guys are stronger than me. Qualified. More experience.
But I really enjoyed learning from a lot of league veterans. And I just pick up little things from them and eventually I can apply them to the game and actually see them start to work.
When last season ended, I was already preparing for next season by watching playoff basketball and trying to learn what I can. And one thing I learned is that they were two completely different games – regular season basketball and playoff basketball. They paid so much more attention to details. You can just see all of the thoughts that go into the defense plans and games that they run.
If I just look at this, I see that I need to improve both my mental game and my skills, my body and my body.
About his new look …
Photo courtesy Josh Jackson
One reason I cut my hair is because Phoenix is too hot. Every day you go outside to 110, 115 degree weather. I just touched my hair and my hand would only burn. I would sweat and it was just too much.
Another reason it was just too much waking up in the morning with sometimes half of my hair flat and the other half all off. I would have to go to the mirror and fix it. Now I could just give it a few brushes and I’m good, so I just thought it was easier and it’s just time for another look at things.
I hadn’t had a haircut in four and a half years. It was just time.
People still don’t recognize me. People I’ve known for a while will see me and still won’t know it’s me until maybe five, ten minutes have passed.
About his summer vacation …
This summer I had to leave the country and take a little vacation. I was in Switzerland for about a week. Nice out there. I advise everyone to go if you can. It is something different. I would definitely stay here again.
I had never been to Europe before. Scrape this off the list. What I really liked was how diverse it was. It was a big melting pot of people from all over Europe. You can meet 10 people who all speak a different language in Switzerland.
You see a lot of different cultural things out there. You get to know people from everywhere. Of course, when you meet people from all over the world, you will learn more. You are exposed [different] Things. It was cool to see.
The food there was really good. I had a lot of pasta, a lot of food. They have people from Serbia so I had some Serbian food there. You have people from Russia. People from Austria. They have a lot of different restaurants and the things I tried were pretty good.
About his new squad …
I’ve been hanging out with Deandre a lot lately. I was very excited when we got it. Playing against him in high school gave me a sense of who he is as a player and what he’s about. He’s a competitor like me. He wants to win. He hates to lose. He wants to get better. He’s a hard worker, and since we moved him in, he’s been all we thought he’d be. I’m very excited for him this year.
He expects a little guidance from me. I’m trying to do this for him. Things I struggled with early in my beginner year, I tell him what to look out for. I tell him little abbreviations to get better at the game. Things to work on. He’ll be really, really good.
‘Book’ [Booker] is the best player I have ever played on the same level with. A great leader. An ultimate goalscorer. Even better teammate. He’s the guy. He wants his boys around him to be fine, so he will teach you. He will talk to you. He will try to put you in positions that are best for you to be successful.
He took care of me a lot last year when he was on the pitch. Even when he was on the bench, he would be there and train me and tell me things to do. So keep the ball protected. I’ve been undressed a couple of times and he tells me things like, “Keep the defender on the side of your body. Hold the ball on the other side. ‘Book is a great teammate.
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Igor is a great teacher too. He’s a player-coach like Steve Kerr. A lot of people say that about him. He’s the kind of guy who won’t just guide you or tell you to do things a certain way. He will explain to you, and he is also a guy who will be open to hear what you have to say. He is open to your ideas. And you get that kind of freedom and leeway when you have players who obviously know what they’re doing. The more we get better and learn that, the more freedom we have.
Between that year and last year, our organization did a great job of simply improving everything from our coaches, our strength trainer, the coaches to some of the players we added to the team. They did a good job making sure we are a better team all around.
Let’s have a good season.
Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for The Undefeated. He used to be able to get involved with you, but he hadn’t been able to do it in years and his knees still hurt.