The Curious Case of Pierre Jackson

Published: February 25, 2014

There was a moment during this All Star weekend that was a bit odd for me. You see, for a few hours during and after the D-League’s annual All Star game, Pierre Jackson became the Internet’s entire focus. If you’re a Pelicans fan, you know this is merely another moment where the diminutive guard has stolen the spotlight. Nevertheless, it still amazes me that a player outside the NBA can demand so much attention from national sportswriters. On the other hand, I don’t find it that surprising at all. Fans always love small explosive scorers like Jackson. They are just the easiest guys to get behind. Add to that Pierre’s personal charisma and never-give-up attitude and you have a guy you literally can’t avoid rooting for.

A few members of the national media took the All Star weekend as an opportunity to profile Pierre Jackson in a few short pieces. In most of these pieces, he was dubbed something like “best scorer not in the NBA” or “best player in the world not in the NBA.” I would probably agree. Fans flocked to social media and asked the obvious question: “well, why isn’t he in the NBA? I mean it isn’t like he is in some far corner of Europe shooting in a dusty old gym that most Indiana high schools would be too embarrassed to use. Who is keeping him out of the NBA?”

Though I didn’t find a piece that explicitly answered that last question, it was obvious that the New Orleans Pelicans (or more specifically, Dell Demps) are keeping Pierre out of the NBA. As a matter of fact, this may be true, however tone often matters more than the words. In the case of those All Star weekend articles, the tone seemed to be that the Pelicans were incompetent or that Dell was cruel for refusing to call up Pierre.

That is a good story. In fact, that story is probably good enough to pay 8 bucks to see in a theater. The problem, for me anyway, is that reality often isn’t as interesting as fiction. The stories almost refused to discuss the Pelican’s side of things entirely. There was little discussion of basketball economics, finances, the Pelicans’ long-term plan, or their current rosters. Those journalists told the truth, but the narrative they told was only from one perspective.

Narrative has been the sports journalism buzzword for a while. I genuinely like that word, but I’m tired of it getting used so often and so ineffectively. Still, this Pierre Jackson situation is all about narrative, which is why it has stuck with me for so long.  In my mind, narrative is most effective when we think of it as the way we explain and the emotions we give to the facts and circumstances of a story. It is the tone of the story. Using this informal definition, let’s exam the facts of the Pierre Jackson situation.

The Narrative

Part One: The Acquisition 

The exact circumstances of how Pierre was acquired are often forgotten. The Pelicans acquired Pierre Jackson in the Jrue Holiday trade (or the Pierre Jackson trade as it may later be known). We gave up that years first round draft pick (Nerlens Noel) and our 2014 draft pick for Jrue Holiday and Pierre Jackson. That is the simple fact. However, that is often how the story is told.

It is funny to me that the Jrue Holiday trade is so often slammed by the same journalists who are crying for the Pelicans to bring Jackson in to the league. In other words, which of these makes the Pelicans sound smarter, 1) a trade for Jrue Holiday or 2) a trade for Jrue Holiday and Pierre Jackson? All else equal, the second trade sounds better. Getting two assets in a trade is always better than one, as long as both assets have a positive value. Of course, you don’t often hear the Holiday trade described in glowing terms, because that would diminish the other major story of how the 2014 draft will be as awesome as crossing the streams of the proton packs at the end of Ghostbusters. So if you want to make trading a 2014 first rounder sound stupid, don’t mention Pierre Jackson. If you want to make the Pelicans sound stupid, don’t mention how they acquired Jackson as an afterthought in a much bigger trade.

Now, I’m not suggesting that any journalist have it out for the Pelicans or want to make us sound stupid, but every journalist needs to find a good story, something that grabs readers and keeps them reading. If that is what you need, hyperbole is a great way to go. Taking hard stances and making bold claims is much more likely to get a response from the public than nuanced analysis. That is why the Pelicans have been beaten into the ground so hard about the Holiday trade. 

Part Two: Europe 

This has to be the strangest part of the whole Pierre Jackson saga to me. A few writers have lamented about how the Pelicans will do nothing with Jackson, which has forced him to go to Turkey for what I assume is a higher wage than what he’d earn in the D-League. They seem to think this is some sort of unfortunate consolation prize for the NBA. . By all accounts, they were clear with their intention to retain his draft rights, but not call him up this season before they drafted him, and he was already in Europe. The Pelicans allowed him to go play for a French team, remember? He came home after a short stay due to homesickness. He didn’t want to be abroad. I’m not sure much more can be said here. He had a chance to play for more money abroad, and he didn’t want it. Now, he is going back, and I really hope it works out for him.

However, I’m not sure what the Pelicans have to do with this storyline. I’m not sure how he is forced to play in Europe, when that seems to have been an option he had all along.

Part Three: D-League Domination

So before Turkey and after France, Pierre goes to the D-League and begins to light it up.  He is scoring at will and puts up a 50-point game. Things are going so well that he actually leads the D-League in scoring per game. Here is where the narrative choices get really interesting. Let me do something here. Let’s pretend we aren’t talking about the Pelicans, but we are talking about the Spurs. Here’s how I imagine the news reports of Jackson’s play might sound.

Pierre Jackson is looking downright amazing in the D-League, and I think it is safe to say that Popovich and the Spurs have done it again. They have found another second round guard that wasn’t on anybody’s radar and turned him in to a valuable NBA asset! Maybe they will develop him into an energy bench player, or maybe they will trade him for a missing piece to compete with OKC. At any rate, it is pretty incredible how efficient, intelligent, and effective the Spurs front office is. 

That isn’t want we have heard about Dell. We have heard that unlike San Antonio, he has prevented the best non-NBA player from becoming the next Nate Robinson. His handling of the Pierre Jackson situation has been incomprehensible, idiotic, and at times down right cruel!

Of course, both narratives are incredibly ridiculous, but that isn’t the point here. The point is that in both of my examples have the same facts. The same facts and circumstances stayed the same, but I was able to construct two completely different stories based on the general public’s preconceptions about different teams. That is the power of narrative.

What Happens to Pierre Now? 

I thought that Pierre’s draft rights might end up in a trade at the deadline, but that didn’t happen. Instead, he will finish out the season playing in Turkey. The Pelicans will reevaluate what they want to do with Jackson this offseason. No matter which narrative people choose to talk about Pierre, I think the missing element is that the Pelicans aren’t obligated to Pierre. The NBA labor market is constructed in such a way that the teams have control over the new players. The team doesn’t have to do anything, really. You can argue that isn’t fair, but that argument isn’t the discussion we are having.

Here is what will happen. The team is going to play out the rest of their games this season. During the summer, the front office will reevaluate where they are with Pierre Jackson. If they feel he can contribute to the team as a player, he will probably be treated as our rookie for next season as Dell has even suggested in the past. If they feel our team has too much depth at guard, they will probably trade him. I have no idea what they will get in return, but it probably isn’t going to be a whole lot of assets.

I have no idea how Pierre became such a storyline from the D-league. It seems like he was just the perfect media storm. At the end of the day, this story has probably taken a rest for this season. When I think back on this whole fiasco in a few years, I probably won’t even remember Pierre’s performances in the D-league. What I will remember is the way the story was told. I’ll remember how it was #FreePierre and not #GoDealerDell.

The thing about narratives is that they can change in a heartbeat. In a few years, someone might write a 7,000-word post on how Dell Demps turned the New Orleans Pelicans in to champions, and I highly doubt anything about Pierre Jackson will be mentioned. If it is mentioned, I guarantee you that it will be a different story than what we heard over the All Star break.


  1. New City

    February 25, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    I think you need to add one more story arc to your narrative: The Pelicans suck at the moment. I don’t think anyone would question a club that kept a young talent in the minors if calling up that player might upset team chemistry on a playoff bound squad. But the Pelicans, suffering from multiple injuries, struggling to score many nights, and presumably deep into talent evaluation mode for next year, would seem a perfect spot for the call up of a player like Jackson after the All Star break.  Now, I understand that we are well manned at his position at the moment and there are contract considerations, but you shouldn’t leave the Pels status out of the narrative. It contributes greatly to the collective head scratching around the league.

  2. Jason Calmes

    February 25, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    How better would PJ make the team? Would it be a big enough difference to burn a contract year and upset their plans?

  3. LincolnKreifels

    February 25, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    The pelicans should have either traded him or called him up. Instead they traded for Tyshawn Taylor and failed to capitalize on Pierre while his value was at an all time high. It’s one thing to be smart about the way you handle and develop your assets but another to piss the player off. Pretty sure that’s what happens when you own the rights to the best player outside the nba, who is a pg that is probably better than anyone that’s healthy in your crowded backcourt, yet instead of signing him or trading him/one of your pg’s to make room for him you trade a future draft pick for another pg who is just as unproven. Thats silly.

  4. Jason Calmes

    February 25, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    You have not been paying attention. Taylor became Babbitt. The Pelicans will pay PJ or trade him. They will have to manage his happiness at that point, but you have no clue how that will pan out. Reserge your judgment is my advice.

  5. LincolnKreifels

    February 25, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Ah that makes a lot more sense. Thanks for making me aware but honestly, They should be managing his happiness now since he’s obviously unhappy. You don’t have a clue how well I know pj/his personality either. As a mod, you should be informative and helpful but not presumptuous.

  6. Jason Calmes

    February 25, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Actually, no. You posted with an attitude. You got it back. It’s even. Start off with a nice attitude if you want one back.
    All is well from where I sit.

  7. LincolnKreifels

    February 25, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Hahah ya maybe depending on your interpretation I had an additive towards an organizations decision making. Yours was towards a ‘customer’ hahahh.

  8. Jason Calmes

    February 25, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    If you were paying, maybe that would apply. Even still, I don’t think it would make a difference to me. You want respect? Don’t act like you don’t warrant it.

  9. PelicanSaints

    February 25, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    It makes no sense to bring him up now, We have 26 games remaining with no chance to make the playoffs….burn a contract year would be pointless at this stage of the season….He could easily take Roberts roster spot next year, but at a rookie rate…..

  10. mojart

    February 25, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    i can see pierre replacing roberts next season…he will be our own version of reggie jackson next season

  11. MatityahuRich

    February 25, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    What would it take for the Knicks too sign him and somewhat salvage their season?

  12. Pelican Poster

    February 25, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    I see Jackson as as a younger more prolific version of Roberts next year with similar defensive liabilities…he’ll share backup duties for Holiday with Rivers depending upon who’s hot and matchup issues…if Rivers continues to progress he will also see plenty of time at the SG position with Evans/Morrow upon Gordon’s departure…Steimsma gone in favor of Withey and Ajinca…Aminu gone with a Miller/Babbit/FA combination in replacement…A.D. and Anderson back…in two year’s Gordon’s money will serve to find a higher level FA SF or C, with the young vets in their prime, and the youngers becoming young vets…so much potential if only it can blossom

  13. yaboytonez

    February 26, 2014 at 1:39 am

    And they say these writers aren’t objective. Great piece. This is just a situation where we have an overloaded position. Can’t give Rivers minutes, how could they call up Pierre?

  14. Caffeinedisaster

    February 26, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Hopefully Roberts starting has opened the eyes of some GM that wants him in the offseason and can net us an asset.
    As some others have said, Pierre can provide what he does with room for improvement.

  15. LincolnKreifels

    February 26, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Pretty sure hits generate income. Lol. I don’t want respect. Just trying to help you

  16. pelicanfan

    February 26, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Another part of narrative of interest to me was that I heard that in order to retain the rights to Jackson we had to offer him a contract after he was drafted. Don’t know if this true or not. Also I also wonder if we keep his rights forever even if we don’t ever sign him.

  17. Jason Calmes

    February 26, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    No one at this site gets paid, directly or indirectly, from the site, ads, ESPN, etc.

  18. Jason Calmes

    February 26, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Teams have to do this to maintain rights, and it happened. Teams can keep a player’s rights indefinitely if they choose to follow certain protocol. The Pelicans had and traded rights to a Euro player they received when then sent out Jack.

  19. pelicanfan

    February 26, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Jason Calmes Hard to have much sympathy for Jackson if he was offered a contract similar to Miller and Withey’s, 2nd round picks last season and this.
    Probably there is more to the story, maybe the Pels offered him a very bad contract.

  20. Jason Calmes

    February 26, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    It is easy to imagine some horror stories, but the truth is there are minimum contract values established and there was an agreed upon plan to send him to Europe to get paid. He chose to back out on thst part.

  21. Kempleton

    February 26, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    The Pierre Jackson that I watched during summer league was not at a level who can play for an NBA team. I have watched his first few D-league games and he looked like he is a very good player for D-league. 
    But, that’s not the NBA, that is the D-league. Donald Sloan also had very good stats in D-league. But, He was not able to carry that performance into NBA. So, Pierre Jackson might currently be at a level between D-league and NBA. That might be the reason why he has very good stats for D-league but is questionable for the NBA. We cannot know until he steps on the court with an NBA team.

    I said “questionable” because looks like no other GM even offered a future draft pick for him. Or, maybe Dell Demps did not like any offer and thinks Pierre has more than what others offers right now. Otherwise, he might have been traded by now. This might indicate that no GM believes that he can play on their current squad or it is not worth giving away a draft pick without making sure that he can play in the NBA. Maybe Dell Demps also think that he still needs to improve. D-league stand for development-league so it makes sense that PJ develops his game there until he is ready for the NBA.
    Someone below commented that PJ is unhappy. Well, after breaking points record for D-league and having very good stats that I am sure a player would start to wait that call. Rather than being unhappy, the player should be disappointed and try to evaluate the situation by simply asking the following question: “Why?” There might be a business reason, maybe Demps thinks signing PJ on a rookie contract will prevent moves that he plans this summer. There might be a basketball reason, maybe Monty Williams thinks he has no minutes for Pierre and this will make him more and more unhappy. There might be other reasons. Would it help to find the answer? I don’t think so. I think the best thing that the player can do to keep working and improving to earn that call. Pierre did that and decided to play in Europe, not for Asvel, for Fenerbahce.

    Fenerbahce Istanbul is one of the best teams in Turkey and is a very good team in Europe. Their coach, Obradovic is one of the best coaches in Europe. He was at the helm of Panathinaikos in Greece for many years and he is well decorated with many Greek championship as well as Euroleague championships. 
    From the 58 points he scored in the D-league, it is clear that PJ has an explosive offensice game. But, I read in Turkish blogs that Fenerbahce fans are worried about his defense. PJ should consider himself lucky to work with Obradovic to develop his defence. Maybe then he can sign with a team in the NBA.

    But, he needs to learn to be patient. If he says “I am homesick” again as he did earlier this season in France, the lack of professionalism might cost him a lot…


    Clearly, PJ has a goal to play in the NBA but his time will come as long as he works on his game.

  22. BigBLDavis

    February 26, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    I’ll admit I was one of the fans scratching my head at Pels when
    news came out he was going to Turkey if not traded.And I’m a Pel fan that knew how he was acquired,
    forgot he went overseas first, and knows we are guard heavy.  It does make for a good story!  I’m more concerned about if we have a shot at getting our pick away from Philly a.k.a. Top 5!

  23. Kempleton

    March 3, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Pierre Jackson played his first game for Fenerbahce last Friday. He started on the bench and only played 3 minutes in the first half. He did not play in the second half.

    Here is a photo from the game:

    3 minutes is not long enough for any kind of judgement. But here is what I thought while watching. He looked really fast, He can jump! He pulled a defensive rebound and I was impressed by the way he reached to the ball in the crowd. He got blocked once and got into traffic while trying to attach the basket in his second attempt.

    He played in front of approximately 13000 fans and against the last champion of the Euroleague. It is not the d-league for sure…

    Here is what his new coach, Obradovic, said after the game:
    “Pierre Jackson needs time to adjust as a newcomer. It’s normal. He
    understands the way we play. He is going to have more minutes in the
    near future.” Obradovic also said that Jackson were in practice for only 4 times before he played in his first game. He said PJ will adapt with more practice and game-play.

    By the way, Ex-Raptor Lithuanian Linas Kleiza plays for Fenerbahce and he led his team with 21 points and 8 rebounds.

    I will try to post more here as I hear more from Pierre Jackson.

    PS. Fenerbahce plays a league game at the moment but PJ is not on the roster because the Turkish basketball federation has a rule to have minimum 7 Turkish players on the squad of 12 players. That means only 5 non-Turkish players can play at league games. Fenerbahce plays Bo McCalebb (USA-G), Linas Kleiza(Lthuania-F), Nemanja Bjelica(Serbia-F), Luka Zoric(Croatia-C), Blagola Sekulic(Montenegro-F). Jackson has to prove that he’s really good to replace any of them.

    PS#2. The starting PG for Fenerbahce is Bo McCalebb from New Orleans!

  24. Kempleton

    March 6, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Pierre Jackson was on the court for Fenerbahce(FB) today.
    FB had a difficulty away game against Barcelona in Spain. For the record, Barcelona is another strong European side. They played the final four in Euroleagure last year and finished at the 4th place.
    Jackson did not play at all in the 1st Q. He entered the game midway through the second Q for McCalebb. He was efficient and stayed until the end of the 2nd. He was more confident, scored 2 jumpers and attacked the rim betterl. Converted one of 2 FTs and ended the half with 5 points and 2 assists, no turnovers! He was faster than his defenders but his size has been a little bit of an issue on defence against bigger Barcelona guards. PJ also had the chance to make the buzzer beater but he missed from the top of the paint.
    I think the most important thing was Jackson started the second half with McCalebb in the backcourt instead of the Fenerbahce regular Preldzic. Barcelona dominated in the 3rd Q and increased their lead from 7 to almost 20. PJ played for the first 3 minutes, then FB coach had to make changes and took Jackson out. PJ came back in with 4 min on the clock and finished the quarter with 9 points on 5 shots with 2 assists and 2 rebounds. 
    The 4th Q started with a 16 point lead of Barcelona. Pierre Jackson started the final quarter as well. FB had a mountain to climb. Barcelona kept raining 3 pointers. Midway through the 3rd Barca made 13 of 33 from beyond the arc while Fenerbahce only attempted 12 3 pointers and made only 2 of them. It became a 25 point game and PJ left the floor with 11 points on 6 shots, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 turnovers in 18 minutes.
    Jackson showed that he is getting used to his new team and teammates tonight and played much better compared to last week. Hopefully he will improve with each game. Fenerbahce is fighting for a spot in the playoffs. So far, Jackson cannot play in the Turkish league and can only play in Euroleague. So, it will be better for Jackson if Fenerbahce can make the playoffs…

  25. Michael McNamara

    March 6, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    Kempleton  Thank you so much for these recaps. They really help a lot.

  26. Kempleton

    March 6, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    No problem. I am “curious” to see how Jackson will perform in Turkey/Europe. And I am happy to share info with others who might be interested in. Because, I believe Dealer Dell might make a decision about him depending on his performance there. Here is a photo of Pierre from today’s game.
    PS. Dell Demps played in istanbul/Turkey for Galatasaray back in the day…

  27. A_Leinonen

    April 8, 2014 at 1:05 am

    Kempleton  Well for recent news: Pierre scored 11 points against FC Barcelona playing 18 minutes. That’s a very good sign. Barcelona has been able to compete with many NBA teams and even pull victories over Lakers and Mavericks. It’s clear that if Pierre could keep consistently good level of performance in Euroleague he could also play in NBA.
    At least for me if he could average around 15 points with good minutes and decent assists with not too much turnovers in Euroleague that would be much better showing than any 50 point game in D-league. Because even right now he is basically playing with and against several players who has shown they can play at NBA level.
    Also something he can get from Euroleague that I think is hard to get as good from anywhere else is team offense and defense and how to execute different strageys. If he could improve that and become even smarter player who can make plays for the team also it might be the little push he needs. I mean everyone knows he could become highenergy bench guy even in NBA, but there is difference with that and Isaiah Thomas for example. It is being able to run the offense and make plays for everyone and that’s what I hope pierre could learn from Euroleague.

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