by Ryne Nelson / @slaman10
One month into the NBA season, 38-year-old Jerry Stackhouse has been arguably the Nets’ best bench player.
Through his 11 games, Stackhouse has knocked down shots with efficiency—shooting 44.7 percent from outside, and a deadly 56 percent from the corners—and leads all NBA players with an unreal +22.9 plus-minus rating per 48.
“I didn’t know if it would happen this soon, but I felt like I would get an opportunity to show that I could play,” Stack said before Tuesday night’s game. “I hadn’t been able to do that in certain situations that I’ve been in.”
The last time the 17-year vet had a real opportunity to play was with the Mavericks, when Avery Johnson coached the team from 2005-2008. Now reunited with the Little General in Brooklyn, Stackhouse has found new life.
Slowly choosing his words, in a smooth, southern baritone, the one-time NBA scoring champ spoke to SLAMonline before last night’s hard-fought 117-111 loss to the Thunder. The Nets guard played a season-high 29 minutes and scored 8 points, dropped 4 dimes and recorded (another) team-high +10 rating.
“Old-house,” as some Brooklynites have affectionately called him, spoke on everything from his love for defense to how he’s been able to keep his game nice this late in his career.
And just as his teammates have done this season, we took notes:
SLAM: Would you say advances in training have a large part to do with how guys who are in their mid- to late-30s are still very relevant in the League right now?
Jerry Stackhouse: Yeah, I think training is a part of it. Diet is a huge part of it. And probably more so than anything, genetics. Some guys are just not built to last and play at an athletic level that long. A lot of guys have a lot of problems with weight—young guys, they come into the League at 22, 24, and they have issues with weight.
That’s not necessarily because they train wrong or necessarily don’t watch their diet. It’s a hereditary thing. There’s a bunch of different factors that go into it, but definitely testing your body, pushing your body in the offseason is a key to it.
SLAM: If a person’s determined to make it, but doesn’t have the genetics, could he overcome those things?
JS: Yeah, I think so. The heart is the most powerful muscle that we have. If you could push yourself and have the wherewithal to stick with it, that’s definitely… I would always err on thinking you can go out that way.
SLAM: What motivates you at this point in your career?
JS: I just like to play. Just being able to continue to beat my kids. To make sure they can never kick my butt. They’re getting to that point.
My AAU team, I watch these kids get better and better. Now they’re 16, 17 years old, becoming men, and I just like getting out there with them and competing. I think that’s kind of my motivation when I get out there with them and keep myself in shape.
And when it start time to get back with the pros in September when guys start working out again, that’s when I test myself. I know if I’m out there and I’m still able to compete, then I know I’ll be able to compete at this level.
SLAM: What do you preach to your team in this locker room, as well as your AAU team?
JS: You’d think somebody who’s scored as much as I’ve scored that it’d always be about the offense, but it’s totally defense. It’s about getting stops and trying to stop the other team from getting what they want. Feeling that, at the end of the day, you’ll have enough firepower to put enough points on the board to score.
And I think most teams got guys that you can figure out a scheme to put points on the board, but how can you stop the other team? So that’s kind of the thing I preach.
And sharing the ball. Make sure if somebody drives, you’re looking for your teammates as well as getting in lanes where the guy with the ball can see you. Bail outs is huge for me—making sure the guy with the ball, if he gets caught at the basket, that he has specific places that he can throw the ball. That’s what I preach day in and day out.
SLAM: Is there anything you wish you were taught earlier in your career?
JS: Everything that I’m teaching now, I wish I could have got as a 15-, 16-year-old. I definitely would have been a better player. I operated on athleticism for quite a while, up until I was at the University of North Carolina, when I first started to learn basketball and understand that a system to doing things can make the game a lot easier.
Up until that, it was about using sheer athleticism—trying to be faster than somebody or jump over them. And now, I’m glad that I chose a school like North Carolina because those fundamentals that I learned are helping me to still exist now when all that athleticism isn’t there anymore.
SLAM: What do most young players forget when they’re coming up?
JS: Everything, man. Young players are… it’s unbelievable. They know what it takes to win. They could do the right things for three games straight, and the fourth game, they’re still going to revert back.
Players in general, whether it’s young players or any player, they’re going to take the path of less resistance. That’s just the nature of being an athlete, and I think that’s why you have to have coaches. There’d be no need for coaches if we did it right every time and continued to get it right every time.
SLAM: If the opportunity presents itself, is coaching something you see yourself doing in the NBA in the future?
JS: Yes, I would look forward to having an opportunity to coach at this level. I think from my understanding of how to play offense and now my passion for the defensive side of the ball, I think there’s a correct way to teach it.
People have different philosophies, but I think the philosophy that’s been bred into me is one that’d be conducive to winning. I’m just looking for my opportunity. I’ve played with some unbelievable coaches, and I’ve taken something from all of them. And when the time comes, hopefully I have a package that people appreciate.
SLAM: What have you noticed as the most significant change in training since you’ve came into the NBA?
JS: So much has changed since then. More plyometrics and different things like that toward basketball. It used to be bench press, squats, incline press. Three sets of 10, 8, 6.
Now it’s so much more sophisticated in that you can get a helluva workout with an [elastic] band. You know, never lift a weight and still get all that you need. The science of training has gotten to the level where you can have specific training for different athletes and for different sports.
And that’s key. There’s no need for a basketball player to be doing too much deadlifting or maybe a lineman to be working on his vertical. So you tailor things to the specific need of the athlete.
SLAM: Would you say trainers are more important today than they ever were?
JS: Like you said, guys are playing longer and you got to say the trainers are a part of that. But if it’s in your heart and you have the wherewithal to really get the work done, you can get it done all by yourself. You can pop in a DVD and be as fit as anybody out there.
SLAM: In the beginning of the year, you said you wanted to contribute however you could. Is this how you saw yourself contributing to this team?
JS: Yeah, man, I just felt like I would get an opportunity. I didn’t know if it would happen this soon, but I felt like I would get an opportunity to show that I could play. I hadn’t been able to do that in certain situations that I’ve been in.
But I knew that with this coach, if I came in and showed that I could still do it, that I’d get an opportunity to do it. To say that I felt that I would be here as soon as I was, no, because I felt like on the depth chart, there were guys ahead of me. But I’ve been able to work my way through some of that, and here I am.