Jackson said that Popovich wanted him to admit to the team that Danny Green and Manu Ginobili were better than him, and when he flipped out, the San Antonio Spurs released him
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Stephen Jackson played for eight teams throughout his career in the NBA, but he only won a championship with one of those teams, which was with the San Antonio Spurs back in 2003. Jackson reached the pinnacle of the NBA during his time with the Spurs, but when he looks back on his two separate stints with the team, it doesn't seem as if everything was as rosy as it seemed for him during his time with the team.
After leaving the Spurs during the 2003 offseason, Jackson was traded back to the Spurs in 2012 by the Golden State Warriors. The team was much different than it was during his first stint, resulting in Jackson having a far less consistent role this time around. That led to him developing some animosity toward San Antonio's head coach Gregg Popovich, as Jackson recently described how he had a rocky relationship with the longtime Spurs coach.
That culminated with Jackson getting released in April of 2013, and he would finish his career with a brief stint with the Los Angeles Clippers the following season. But Jackson reveals that he and Popovich actually got into an argument before his release and that Popovich set up Jackson to give him a reason to cut him because they were flying Tracy McGrady in on a plane to sign him later that day.
"We make it to the Western Conference Finals, I ball out. The next year, he come back and he's not playing me at all. Playoffs get ready to come around, one thing about it, if you cut a guy at a certain time, at the end of the season, he can't go play for another team. So, that's what Pop did… He's like 'Imma bring the team in. I want you to admit that Danny Green and Manu Ginobili are better than you, because I'm gonna play them in the playoffs.' Before he even asks me that question, you know he knows how I'm gonna respond…As we having the conversation, Tracy McGrady is landing in San Antonio. He knew I was gonna go off. 'Get the f*** outta here. He ain't better than me. He ain't better than me. F*** all of y'all.' But he knw that's how I was gonna respond, and he was gonna do it regardless." - Stephen Jackson, I AM ATHLETE
That is a wild story from Jackson that shows how Popovich is always a step ahead of his players. Jackson was getting fewer and fewer minutes as the 2012-13 season progressed, and Popovich knew that was irritating Jackson. So by making it seem like the Spurs thought that Danny Green and Manu Ginobili were better than him, Popovich tricked Jackson into giving him a reason to release him.
Now, Popovich obviously could have just gone about it in a far less brutal manner and just straight up released Jackson because even if Jackson agreed to admit this, he still would have gotten cut, which Jackson notes here. It's a bit of a low move, and while Jackson still does appear to harbor some sour feelings toward Popovich, time heals all wounds.
Jackson likely won't be sending Popovich a Christmas card anytime soon, but he does recognize the genius of Popovich's coaching style nowadays, even if he was unable to do so when he was still in the NBA. The Spurs would go on to lose in the 2013 NBA Finals, and while Jackson's release certainly was not a determining factor in that loss, he likely felt some karmic justice after his brutal release earlier in the season.2023-02-04T21:34:12Z dg43tfdfdgfd