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"DeRozan and Dejounte they’ve been held back, it's like playing in a jail" - Stephen Jackson describes what it's like to play for the San Antonio Spurs

Stephen Jackson goes in on the negative sides of the Spurs' system.
March 10, 2021;San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan and guard Dejounte Murray during the game against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center

DeMar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray

Over the years, the San Antonio Spurs have grown to be one of the more well-regarded and respected organizations in the NBA. But according to former NBA sharpshooter Stephen Jackson, it isn't all sunshine and rainbows in San Antonio.

Winning 5 championships since their inception in 1967, the Spurs have slowly earned the respect of their peers around the association. Known for their advanced player development and team culture, they have been a desirable location for free agents and rising young talent historically.

Jackson on the Spurs' environment

Notwithstanding their positive reputation, in years following their championships, former players have spoken out on the limitations of the Spurs system, and Jackson is one of those.

Recently, the 44-year-old sat down to give his thoughts on what it’s like to play for the franchise.

“There’s players in the Hall of Fame that were on teams and they needed to be in systems. They couldn’t take another team by themselves to the playoffs. I wasn’t that guy. That’s why I couldn’t stand San Antonio, I knew I could be better elsewhere. They keep you and put you in positions and its only a certain one or two players that they are going to allow to be that," Jackson said.

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"In my case it was Tony, Manu and Tim. But some days Manu and Tony, I was way nicer than them on some nights, but in situations like that, we talk about DeRozan and Dejounte they’ve been held back. So once you realise that there are other teams that want you, and you see the game is coming easy to you, Kawhi too. When you get out of there you understand that that’s not basketball for me. It’s like playing in a jail,” Jackson added.

The underlying truths

Although many players would understandably disagree with Jackson’s assessment, it has an objective element of truth. After all, Chicago Bulls' DeMar DeRozan and Atlanta Hawks' Dejounte Murray have both flourished since leaving the organization.

In addition, head coach Gregg Popovich has been up-front in resisting the high-tempo, overly reliant three-point shooting that the current NBA landscape adopts. One could argue this has been the driving factor in the Spurs' nonexistent playoff success since their last championship in 2014, due to the lack of freedom and individual influence on a nightly basis.

Timing is everything

On the other hand, most talented role players are successful in “Pop's” system because it promotes distinct roles and rigid discipline.

Posting career stats of 15 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game, Jackson’s production fell under the role player umbrella, although he averaged as many as 21 points per game for the Charlotte Hornets in 2010.

It’s also important to consider that Jackson only spent the early and later stages of his career in San Antonio. As a result, his prime was spent over stints for the Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors, and Hornets.

His entire time in Texas can’t be negative, however, as he was crowned an NBA champion with the Spurs in 2003. 

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