PHOENIX — Josh Jackson skipped out on a pre-draft workout with Boston at the last second, a move that didn’t sit too well with the Celtics.
The Phoenix Suns, who ended up drafting the former Kansas star, may have had something to do with it, but aren’t saying what.
“You guys know my connection to the Boston Celtics and the respect I have for Danny Ainge, but you guys also know how competitive I am and it is a competition,” Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said Friday without elaborating much more. “The process is what it is and we played by the rules, I guess. I’m just thrilled Josh Jackson is sitting next to me and is a member of the Phoenix Suns.”
Boston held the third pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft, with the Suns right behind them.
After that, it wasn’t clear who would go where. Some mock drafts had the Celtics taking Duke’s Jayson Tatum or Jackson with the third pick.
The Celtics were interested enough in Jackson that they were scheduled to see him work out earlier this week in Sacramento. While Ainge, the GM, coach Brad Stevens and assistant GM Mike Zarren were in the air, Jackson had a change of heart and cancelled the workout.
It did not go over well with Ainge, who said he had to get up at 4 a.m. to catch the flight, but added it had nothing to do with drafting Tatum over Jackson on Thursday night.
“There was something that he didn’t want to play for the Celtics,” he said. “In spite of that, we watched Josh for two years and we’re fans. He’s a terrific kid and good player. So we tried not to overreact to those kinds of things and make a big deal of it. Agents and players have all sorts of motivations to get to certain places.”
Jackson did not elaborate on why he opted out of the Sacramento workout, saying only that it didn’t work out. The Suns used the fourth pick to select him then added Miami guard Davon Reed at No. 32 and 6-foot-9 power forward Alec Peters of Valparaiso at No. 54.
“The decision for me to not work out for them was kind of last minute,” Jackson said. “I actually had a workout plan for them, but it just didn’t work out. We tried to reschedule, but it was just bad timing, scheduling and didn’t work out. I would have worked out for them, but I’m glad to be a Phoenix Sun, I’m glad to be here and everything worked out for the best.”
Whether the workout soap opera had anything to do with the Suns getting Jackson doesn’t matter now. The Celtics are happy with Tatum and the Suns got the player they wanted all along.
An athletic 6-8 forward, Jackson has a unique explosiveness and a knack for getting to the rim, where he often throws down highlight-reel dunks over helpless defenders. He needs to work on his outside shot, but also has the chance to be an elite defender in the NBA.
Jackson should fit in well with a Suns roster that’s filled with young, talented players led by star-in-the-making guard Devin Booker who should be able to grow and develop together in the same mold as the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs.
“One of the most special things we have on this team is the youth that we have and being able to grow together,” Jackson said. “I remember watching Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green when they were younger and they didn’t seem to click as well. As time went on and they got older, they got team chemistry and now look at them. “
The Suns hope to take that same path now that Jackson has been added to the fold — even if it may have taken some pre-draft maneuvering to get him here.