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Nets’ loss considered Spurs’ gain

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SAN ANTONIO — One thing Stephen Jackson can do as well as shoot a basketball is tell tales about a career that took him around the globe before he landed in both New Jersey and San Antonio.

Stories about patrons checking their bullets at a restaurant in Santo Domingo, rain falling inside a partially covered arena in Caracas, a teammate walking onto the court in Brisbane with both middle fingers extended toward the crowd.

Jackson is the only player in the NBA Finals who spent time with both the Nets and Spurs. He maintains a friendship with Kenyon Martin after spending their rookie season together, but also has a damaged relationship with his former coach, Byron Scott.

The saga surrounding Jackson, the Spurs' starting shooting guard, will provide a colorful subplot when the best-of-seven finals begin Wednesday night.

"I'm kind of glad they didn't re-sign me," Jackson said Sunday. "I have a lot of respect for that team, but when someone says something about me I never forget."

Jackson was miffed when he traveled to New Jersey with the Spurs last season and was told that Scott said he wouldn't even be in the rotation if he had stayed with the Nets.

Told Sunday that Scott had said he was happy for him to have made it to the finals, Jackson was disbelieving.

"Byron, I don't know if he sincerely means that," Jackson said.

A one-season stint with the Nets was one of many stops the 25-year-old made after becoming a professional vagabond at an early age.

After low SAT scores made him ineligible to play at Arizona, where he was part of the same recruiting class with Sacramento's Mike Bibby, Jackson spanned the globe before finally toning down his lifestyle and throttling down his game.

"He had a lot of knocks on him," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We told him if he didn't accept coaching we'd get rid of him immediately. We were very blunt with him."

That was in the summer of 2001, when Jackson was a free agent after starting 40 games and averaging 8.2 points for the Nets, who never called him after the season ended.

"I left (New Jersey) with a bitter taste in my mouth because I though I did enough to get re-signed," Jackson said. "To be playing these guys is extra special."