They Can't All Be Winners, Part 22: Detroit Pistons

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The heart wants what it wants, and in Reggie Jackson’s case, that’s the starting point guard job in America’s foremost abandoned retail plaza. Once he had finally, officially bad-appled his way out of Oklahoma City on trade deadline day last season, Jackson cried the tears of an asshole and announced as much on Twitter. Unlike Jackson’s calculated irksomeness, which he used to force Sam Presti’s hand—remember when he held himself out of a game in which the Thunder had a short roster, then dunked in front of a bunch of reporters?—this strange, poignant bit of repulsiveness had an unhinged, hated-on prom king vibe to it, Jackson with his emotional dick out in the town square. No one was as happy as he was for himself; almost no one was happy for him, full stop.

A lot of run-of-the-mill athlete petulance gets blown out of proportion. Some frustrated wideout makes a postgame complaint about not getting enough targets and all of a sudden he’s emblematic of a culture of spoiled millionaires. Putting that hooey to one side, Jackson’s last five months or so in Oklahoma City were genuinely scorn-worthy. He sulked and played selfishly and spoke to reporters every chance he got about how he wanted a primary role in the offense that he was clearly never going to get. He asked the Thunder to trade him, then tanked his value when they couldn’t get a deal done as quickly as he would have liked. It’s a wonder the team got any players of consequence in return for Jackson, because the whole league knew how desperate they were to eject him from the locker room. For the sin of having Russell Westbrook on their squad, the Thunder incurred Jackson’s wrath.

Solace for anyone who made a screwface as Jackson wept after getting off the phone with Stan Van Gundy will come in the form of Jackson having his wish granted. His two months in Detroit were, in the narrative in his head, the hero’s ascendance, but anyone with eyes saw about what they expected: lots of points on lots of shots, bunches of assists counterbalanced by way too many turnovers. Jackson was Ashton Kutcher in Jobs, the entire cast of Gangs of New York, building a monument in his own honor. That max contract Van Gundy gave him at season’s end surely didn’t bring his out-of-whack self-perception back into alignment with reality, but the truth will dawn on Jackson at one point or another.

Maybe some night two years from now, in the midst of another losing season, the empty numbers having lost their thrill, the constant insistences on his own importance beginning to register as lonely, hollow wails, Jackson will see himself clearly. In the meantime, delusion is its own sort of hell. Sometimes you get what you want, and it’s awful, no matter how hard you protest that it’s not.

Previously on TCABW: Charlotte Hornets | Philadelphia 76ers | Houston Rockets | Los Angeles Lakers | Dallas Mavericks Indiana Pacers | Oklahoma City Thunder | Memphis Grizzlies | Chicago Bulls | Washington Wizards Cleveland Cavaliers Brooklyn Nets New York Knicks Denver Nuggets Miami Heat Los Angeles Clippers Atlanta Hawks Utah Jazz Sacramento Kings Milwaukee Bucks | Toronto Raptors

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