‘We want Sam’: Jacobson makes NBA debut vs. Wolves

by Michael Dougherty

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Sam Jacobson was supposed to stay home after college and play in front of the hometown fans, living around the corner from his parents in Cottage Grove and drudging through snowstorms in a four-wheel drive to get to home games at the Target Center.
Instead, Jacobson now commutes to work in a Mercedes with the top down, weaving through Los Angeles traffic on his way to The Forum — home of Shaq, star-studded audiences and Showtime.
It’s called culture shock, and it’s what Jacobson has been dealing with big-time.
His faithful fans used to stand in the doorways of the Park of Cottage Grove High School gym to watch number 55 score a few of his more than 2,400 career points.
Then they filled Williams Arena, wearing maroon and gold jerseys with Jacobson’s number five. They watched him pour in more than 1,700 points with the Gophers, moving past NBA legend Kevin McHale and into fifth place on the school’s career scoring list.
On Thursday night they watched him stroll into the Target Center with the rest of the Lakers. This time he was wearing a purple and yellow number seven, something most fans wouldn’t know because he didn’t have to take his warm-up off until there were less than three minutes left to play. In fact, Jacobson had to sit on the floor, because he doesn’t even get a seat on the bench.
Through the Lakers’ first four games, Jacobson had yet to play. But that’s life as an NBA rookie, according to Gophers coach Clem Haskins.
Despite Jacobson’s lack of playing time, however, Haskins said one important thing still happens.
“The most important thing is that he draws the same amount of money on the first and the 15th of every month if he plays or not,” Haskins said, referring to Jacobson’s three-year, $1.76 million contract. “That’s the great thing about it.”
Despite spending more time on the bench than he’s been accustomed to in his basketball career, Jacobson said he couldn’t be happier. He’s realizing his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA, and he’s doing it with the Lakers — a team with 11 NBA championships and seven players on the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players list.
“It is really a thrill,” Jacobson said. “These were guys I watched a couple of years ago, and now I’m playing with them and they are friends and teammates of mine.”
Jacobson has had to make the adjustment to being away from home, in addition to that pesky lack of playing time. His dad, Chuck Jacobson, said it’s not a surprise that Sam hasn’t played yet because the Lakers are loaded at the guard position with all-stars Kobe Bryant and Eddie Jones.
But the elder Jacobson also said that Sam’s seat at the end of the Lakers’ bench does have its upside.
“Although I was hoping he might get a minute here or there,” Chuck said, “he’s OK with it. The way my nephew put it, `At least he’s got a good seat for the games.'”
Jacobson’s parents are doing some adjusting as well. His dad said they haven’t seen their son for six weeks, and will only be able to spend a short time with him after Thursday night’s game because of the hectic NBA schedule caused by the six-month lockout.
The lockout has hurt Jacobson’s ability to adjust to the next level, as well as learn a whole new system. He did not have the benefit of a training camp, and the preseason consisted of only two games. The Lakers won’t hold their first regular season practice until Saturday — nearly eight months since the 1998 draft.
Lakers coach Del Harris said Jacobson has done everything right so far in his young career, but that the playing time is just not there.
“There is nothing he can do to create a situation on his own right now, because there is no practice time,” Harris said. “The only way that he is going to be able to get any action is in games where we have a wide margin or if we have injuries.”
With 2:49 left and the Wolves ahead 81-67, the margin was wide enough for Harris, and Jacobson’s dream came true when he entered the game to the delight of a capacity crowd that had chanted, “We want Sam” for about five minutes.
He played the rest of the game and scored his first career point on a free throw with 1:49 left and the crowd chanting, “Let’s go Gophers.”
Perhaps this is how it was supposed to be after all.