Before calling the city his new home, Frank Jackson made only one assumption about New Orleans, which he had never visited.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” the Pelicans’ lone draft pick said Wednesday afternoon. “But I knew it was really hot.”
So far, Jackson is 1 for 1.
Aside from predicting steamy conditions, the former Duke combo guard had nothing but praise for the organization that traded a pair of draft picks and cash considerations to get him at the start of the second round.
“I was really impressed,” Jackson said. “This facility is pretty new and everyone around here is good people. ... It’s still kind of kicking in and still doesn’t totally feel real that I’m here, but I think it will as the summer comes along and I start working out and those things. It’s a first-class organization, and I’m super impressed with everyone. I’m just glad they’re willing to have me here.”
While most of the NBA’s rookies are focused on summer league competition — the Pelicans summer team opens in Las Vegas against the Toronto Raptors at 3 p.m. Friday — Jackson will merely be an onlooker. A lingering foot injury suffered during his freshman year at Duke required him to have offseason surgery, keeping him out for at least the next few weeks.
So he’s spending the Pelicans' summer league minicamp acquainting himself with the team's coaches and offensive system, even though he's frustrated by his inability to make an early impression on the court.
“It’s the worst,” Jackson said of sitting out the team’s previous three practices. “It’s pretty bad, but I know these things take time, and I don’t want to re-injure it. It’s tough just to sit here, but I’ve been able to learn things and still talk to coaches and learn the sets, learn plays and be around the guys.”
Jackson said the injury is a short-term setback. He expects to be ready for full workouts by early August and to be 100 percent when training camp opens in mid-September. He said the decision to have foot surgery before the draft paid dividends, ensuring he’s prepared for camp — even if it cost him a chance to play in the summer league.
“My foot feels great,” he said. “It’s getting better every day. I started rehab a couple of days ago, so I’m just trying to get better every day, and I’m trying to get stronger and healthy. But it feels good. I’m a couple of weeks out.”
In the meantime, he already has left an impression on the coaching staff. Jackson has spent most of his on-court time doing stationary ballhandling drills, viewing the rest of practice from the sideline.
The 6-foot-4 guard said he hasn’t gotten into specifics about his role or where he fits into the rotation, but if he can replicate the 39.2-percent 3-point shooting he had at Duke, he’ll have an opportunity to make an impact immediately.
He's been unable to show off those skills just yet, but that hasn’t kept him from receiving praise.
“I’m really excited to have that guy as a part of our culture and what we’re doing here,” Pelicans assistant (and summer league head coach) Jamelle McMillan said. “He’s a really nice kid. He’s got great size. It seems like he’s slimmed down from the last time I saw him at Duke. He looks great. I’m looking forward to him joining us full-time.”
McMillan was also encouraged by Jackson’s desire to rehab with the team in Las Vegas rather than stay at the facility in Metairie.
“It’s some guys who I’m going to spend the year with and want to get to know them so we can start building team chemistry now,” Jackson said. “It’s going to be a fun week and a half, and I’m looking forward to cheering on my teammates and trying to learn as much as I can.”