Josh Jackson’s shove of Chris Boucher at Toronto was in and of itself uncalled for. But that moment was a sign of fire that Phoenix Suns fans needed to see.
When Phoenix Suns second-year player Josh Jackson shoved Toronto’s Chris Boucher mid-air on Thursday night, I couldn’t help but have images of Kevin McHale clothes-lining Kurt Rambis instantly pop into my head. Of course, Jackson’s shove was nowhere near as violent, but the moment of history flashed none-the-less.
While Jackson was given a Flagrant Foul and ultimate ejection, hurting the Suns down the stretch (the event occurred with 7:50 remaining in the fourth quarter), the moment might actually become a rallying cry for the young Suns and their fans.
Granted, a season ago, had Marquese Chriss done this exact thing I would have complained about him with the same veracity that I am praising Josh Jackson.
But there is a tremendous difference between the two:
First, Chriss complained about everything. Like the boy who cried wolf who was ultimately eaten, Chriss played as if the whole world was against him on every play which hurt both his ability to develop and grow as well as the Suns’ ability to gain respect and win.
Jackson has never been one of those players and does not have an air of disrespect about him. He is a tough player who began last season complaining more than many would have liked, but over the second half of the seasons and now through the first half of this season, has really shown growth and maturity in that regard.
Jackson too was probably less ticked off at Boucher and more ticked off that teammate Kelly Oubre had just been mauled by two Raptors (pun totally intended), physically hit while under the basket, and yet no call was made – an issue that the Suns face all the time with poor officiating and absolutely zero respect.
While Suns players cannot take the law into their own hands, and certainly in this case Jackson hurt his team by not only giving Boucher the automatic free throw, but by also getting himself ejected, one of the team’s better defenders, this move was still a sign of something that Suns fans haven’t really seen enough of, and that is a true fire and desire to win.
Phoenix was in this game at the time of the ejection and they stayed into it until the very end, ultimately losing on a buzzer-beating layup – an awfully difficult off-balance one at that.
Jackson’s foul was a moment in which he was telling the referees that he wasn’t going to stand for the imbalance in foul calls anymore and that the officials needed to understand that the Suns were for real and were fighting to win.
You see, while referees are tasked with being impartial judges of every game, they are well aware of a team’s situation and their emotions can be brought out just the same as a player’s. They have known full well that the Phoenix Suns have been intentionally tanking for the better part of the last four seasons, and, like fans of the league around the world, probably have not been taking the franchise very seriously on the court if the franchise was going to intentionally lose games they way they have been.
But while the Suns as a team are still not very good, they are slowly starting to put things together in a manner that is leading to more and more success; if not at least more competitive basketball.
Jackson’s momentary lapse of judgement might have cost his team in the end of that game, but it was also a sign to the referees and NBA world that the Suns are actually trying now. This team is playing to win. They want to be treated as a team making a push for the playoffs as Toronto is (even if Phoenix stands no chance based on the standings), and not as a team intentionally angling for the number one pick in the draft.
This fire is something that had been lost on the Suns for some time and is shown by teams who are truly competitive.
It is time that the young Suns start gaining the respect of their peers and officials alike, and it’s time that they start showing on a consistent basis that they deserve this respect, even if it means grabbing it out of midair.