ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — To understand why Stephen Jackson showed up for the Charlotte Bobcats' summer camp featuring mostly undrafted rookies and journeymen, you need to know what he's been dreaming about.
It's a recurring nightmare, really.
Not even sleep allows Jackson to escape the way the franchise's best season ended, with a listless performance in the final game of Orlando's four-game sweep in the first round of the playoffs.
"I had a dream about that last game probably three times since the season has been over with," Jackson said Friday.
Jackson used colorful language to describe how he relives the season finale, shaking his head as he thought about going 2 of 11 from the field and committing four turnovers to make for a quick exit in the Bobcats' first playoff appearance.
"It's sad to say I wasn't focused in the fourth game of a playoff series," Jackson said. "That's been kind of hard on me. I just want to get better."
Combine that with coach Larry Brown's strong suggestion that he become leaner, and Jackson was back on the court a couple weeks ago, the earliest he's returned in the offseason in his 10-year NBA career.
"If I would have been 10 to 15 pounds lighter, I would have been moving a little better, my defense would have been better," Jackson said. "A lot of things would have been better. So when he told me that, I definitely agreed with him."
The 6-foot-8 Jackson said he played at 240 pounds, bulking up because he began the season in Golden State, where he played mostly small forward. Jackson moved to shooting guard when the Warriors gave in to his trade demands after his run-ins with coach Don Nelson and shipped him to Charlotte in November.
He went on to average 21.1 points in 72 games with the Bobcats, squashing any concerns about how his sometimes volatile persona would mesh with the demanding Brown. Jackson helped lead to the Bobcats to a franchise-record 44 wins and the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
But the postseason wasn't kind. Jackson hyperextended his left knee in Game 1, shot 6 of 18 and missed a key 3-pointer in the final minute of a close loss in Game 3, then was a non-factor with eight points in the series finale.
"I know how important this comeback year after making the playoffs is to (owner Michael) Jordan and the organization and the city," Jackson said. "That's another reason I'm here working."
But next season's team could have a different look. The Bobcats, close to the luxury tax, have made no attempt to re-sign point guard Raymond Felton. With Felton getting interest from other teams, D.J. Augustin could be promoted to starter. The trade-happy Bobcats could also pull off a deal to get Jackson a new backcourt mate.
"Whatever happens, everybody has to be prepared for it," Jackson said. "Ray is my little brother, so I just want the best for him. Whether it's here, whether it's wherever.
"Obviously, we made a big step with getting to the playoffs with Ray at point guard. So if he's here I'll be happy. If D.J. has to step up, I'll support him."
Whomever plays point guard will play with a different-looking Jackson, he vows. Not only does he plan to get down to 225 pounds, Jackson indicated his game will change after an offseason chat with Brown.
"LB wants me to average a triple-double. ... That's a big compliment. He's a Hall of Fame coach," Brown said. "I think what he means by that is to find a way to make my teammates better. But when it's (pressure) time, that's when it's time for me to take over. I've got to find the fine line between that."
With Gerald Wallace returning after his first All-Star season and with Charlotte interested in keeping restricted free agent Tyrus Thomas, Jackson feels the Bobcats can be a playoff team again next season. Jackson had high praise for Derrick Brown, who was used little as a rookie but is part of the Bobcats' summer league team.
Jackson has clearly warmed to Charlotte, thriving last season and staying out of trouble as he slowly improves an image tarnished early in his career by his role in the Auburn Hills, Mich., brawl in 2004 and other off-court incidents
"I still feel like I've got something to prove," Jackson said. "I think just being around the game is going to help me get better."