When the season is new like this, there are a lot of things happening that are kind of hard to follow. The storylines of this year have really not yet been set.
One of them that's emerging for me is: Stephen Jackson returns, and the cadaver of the Warriors rises from the grave, and becomes one of those cinema mummies that takes over the village, freaking out the locals (untl some superhero arrives and ruins all the fun, but let's not get carried away in the analogy).
It's also apparently a happy story of man taming fire. Jackson has always had so much fire, but now he's putting that fire in the furnace that keeps the whole team warm, instead of the indiscrimate blowtorchiing that made him famous.
What is less clear, however, is precisely what it is that he does on the court that's so valuable. He defends like a monster, for sure. He hits some shots. But it almost seems like the most important thing he does is make everyone on the team feel like there ain't no effin' way they are going to be OK with losing.
Jackson has not played very many games, but already he's huge in terms of plus/minus and every other new-breed stat. Looks like when Baron Davis is off the floor, the Warriors are bad. And when Davis is on the floor, they're OK. But when Jackson (and Matt Barnes) are on the floor (presumably often with Davis) -- that's when the magic happens.
Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News makes a strong case (he backs it up with impressive stats) that Jackson's defense is the story of Jackson's effectiveness, of the Warriors, and in some respects the whole league. Kawakami writes:
Stephen Jackson sat at his locker late Thursday just after he finished holding Tracy McGrady (averaging 26 this year) to 11 points on 5 of 14 shooting in the Warriors' 113-94 home victory...
Which was a night after holding Ron Artest to 21 points on 7 of 24 shooting in a Warriors victory in Sacramento...
Which was a few days after alternately hawking Shawn Marion and Steve Nash in a Warriors victory over the Suns...
Which was a few days after chasing and bumping Andre Igoudala (Warriors win in Philly), Caron Butler (Warriors win in Washington), Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (Warriors lose in Boston), and Chris Bosh and T.J. Ford (Warriors win in Toronto).
New York was in there, too, but there's nobody important to guard on NY (Warriors win).
Eight games, seven victories, and every time out, Jackson spent most of the contest defending the opponent's best offensive player, and most of the time doing it very, very well.
Which, in its sum total, and presuming Jackson continues this fierce pace of team-leading defense (up next: Kevin Durant, Rashard Lewis, Michael Redd, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant)... Are we looking at a potential NBA Defensive Player of the Year here?