21 January 2015

Exploring the Bolts' Import Options

Darnell Jackson
Now that the 2015 Philippine Cup title is about to be handed to either the Alaska Aces or the San Miguel Beermen, the attention of all twelve teams is going to be diverted to the season’s second conference — the Commissioner’s Cup.

Scheduled to start on 27 January 2015, the unique feature of this conference is that teams are allowed to employ “big” imports. The tournament allows teams to hire foreign players or imports with a height limit of 6'9" for the top eight teams of the recent Philippine Cup, while the bottom four teams will be allowed to hire imports with no height limit.

This is in contrast to the third conference, or the Governors’ Cup, where teams are allowed only the services of “small” imports.

In this particular conference, by virtue of finishing at the bottom of the team standings, Barako Bull Energy Drink (4-7), NLEX Road Warriors (4-7), Kia Sorento (1-10) and Blackwater Elite (0-11) will have
luxury to choose imports who are no taller who could be taller than 7-feet, while the rest of the field can employ imports who are, at most, 6-foot-9 (around 205cm).

It’s no wonder why almost all teams, except for the Meralco Bolts, have already gone to great lengths to sign their imports as early as last year. If teams rely heavily on their imports for practically everything, from scoring, to rebounding, to defending, and, in some cases, even playmaking, then it makes sense to get them on-board a few weeks before the tournament. So why is Meralco getting left behind?

One obvious reason is they got beaten to the punch in their first attempt. Hoping to sign former Air21 import Michael Dunigan, the Bolts failed to consider that Barangay Ginebra is also actively and aggressively pursuing his services. In the end, the Gin Kings were able to sign the 25-year old a few days ago and left the Bolts scratching the bottom of the barrel.

Gin Kings team manager Alfrancis Chua said Dunigan, who is officially measured at 6-8 13/16, will be arriving either later in the week, just shortly after wrapping up his stint in the NBA D-League Showcase.

What other options is available to the Bolts aside from searching for an equally talented import if not better? Some fans are suggesting that the team could bring back their previous import – Darnell Jackson, but did he really do well to merit such as suggestion?

The 6-foot-9 Jackson came in quietly last year to replace Brian Butch as the Bolts’ import. He played moderately well with the team and averaged a decent 28.0 points, 15.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.0 steal in 6 games. The wide bodied Jackson also averaged 43.2 minutes on the floor.

Before playing professionally, the 29-year old Jackson suited for the University of Kansas in college for four seasons, including the 2008 national championship team. He did not become a regular starter at Kansas until the 2007–08 season (his senior year), when he replaced Sasha Kaun in the starting lineup.

Jackson, who did not begin playing basketball until the ninth grade, was considered as one of the most improved players in the U.S. after averaging 6.7 rebounds during his senior season in 2007-08. After his breakout performances, including a 25-point, 9-rebound effort against Boston College, several NBA scouts took notice of the Kansas native.

Jackson was selected as the 52nd overall pick in the 2008 National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft by the Miami Heat before he was traded to the Cavaliers on that same day. Interestingly, Sasha Kaun, his former Jayhawks teammate and fellow 2008 draft pick, was also acquired by the Cavaliers (from the Seattle Sonics).

Jackson played for the Cavaliers during the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Nevada and average 5.8 points and 5.4 rebounds in 24.6 minutes per game.

Even before the 2008–09 season can begin, Jackson broke his wrist and was relegated to the inactive list for the first 13 games of the Cavaliers' regular season. He made his professional debut on 25 November 2008 against the New York Knicks where he scored four points on a perfect 2-2 from the field and grabbed two rebounds.

The knock on this guy, however, is that it seems his best is behind him. When he played for the Bolts last year he was seen huffing and puffing in all of his games, which puts in question his physical conditioning and ability to endure the strenuous demands from an import.

Another ominous thing about this former import of Shanghai Shark in China is how he almost never seems to find his shots in his 6 games with the Bolts. As a known inside operator, Jackson made only 61 of his shots out of 147 attempts for a measly 41.5 percent on the floor. He also failed in helping in spreading the floor wide with his horrendous 11.1 percent from the three-point line. It sure looks like there are a lot of red flags for Meralco here and they may be better off to continue looking for someone else.

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