New York A player who took the long road from high school to the pros will begin the season as a starter in New Jersey. Another player who went from Lubbock, Texas, to Puerto Rico to Varese, Italy, will begin the season in Phoenix.
Stephen Jackson of the New Jersey Nets and Daniel Santiago of the Suns were two of the success stories Monday as all 29 NBA teams pared their active rosters down to 12 players for the start of the season tonight.
There are 13 games scheduled, including national telecasts of Philadelphia at New York (7 p.m. CST, TBS) and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers at Portland (9:30 p.m. CST, TBS).
The league released the 12-man rosters Monday night, and there were a few other surprises besides Jackson and Santiago.
The Chicago Bulls will begin the season as the youngest team in league history with an average age of just under 23. They have five rookies on the roster Jamal Crawford, Khalid El-Amin, Marcus Fizer, A.J. Guyton and Dragan Tarlac and two more rookies, Dalibor Bagaric and Jake Voskuhl, on the injured list.
Joe Smith appears on no one's roster. Commissioner David Stern made the Timberwolves forward a free agent last week, although Smith's status will remain on hold until an arbitration hearing is held Thursday on whether Stern overstepped his authority in voiding Smith's previous two contracts in Minnesota.
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Tyus Edney have returned to the league, Abdul-Rauf as the backup point guard in Vancouver and Edney with the same job in Indiana.
There's a new Marc Jackson in the league, a rookie forward from Temple who spent the past three years in Turkey and Spain. He and Adam Keefe will back up starter Danny Fortson in Golden State. The other Mark Jackson that's Mark with a 'k' has relocated from Indiana to Toronto and led the league in assists during the preseason.
There is no next Michael Jordan. A rookie by that name from Penn was cut by the Boston Celtics during training camp.
Stephen Jackson took a not-so-direct route from high school to the pros with no college in between. A high school All-American in 1996, he didn't have the grades to attend Arizona after signing a letter of intent. He enrolled for the spring semester at a community college in Kansas but did not play, then declared for the draft in 1997 and was a second-round choice of the Suns.
He was cut during training camp, then made professional stops in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic before being cut a year ago by the Vancouver Grizzlies.
The Nets gave him a tryout and coach Byron Scott had no idea who he was on the first day of training camp. But he was the team's leading scorer for much of the preseason and will begin the season as a starter in place of the injured Keith Van Horn.
"This is unexpected, very unexpected," Jackson said. "I have high expectations for myself, but I'm surprised, very surprised."
Santiago, a 7-foot-1 center who played in Italy the past two seasons and also was a member of the Puerto Rican national team, will begin the season as the backup center to Chris Dudley.
"What we're going to get is someone who will be more reliable to us than Oliver Miller was last year," Suns general manager Bryan Colangelo said.