The San Antonio Spurs were called "soft" for many years, especially once Stephen Jackson left the team during the summer of 2003.
They were a tough defensive team, but didn't show much "attitude" in any way. In fact, they were so humble people referred to them as "boring."
With a full training camp and preseason under him, Jackson has rejoined the Spurs and has brought that much needed attitude that they've desperately missed since their defensive players left. Gregg Popovich knows that Jackson has supplied something different this year (via Star-Telegram.com)
"I love his sense of humor and I love his competitiveness, he gives us a little bit of an edge."
This is the toughness he's brought to all his teams, the most evident was the Golden State Warriors in 2007. They played an undersized game against a taller Dallas Mavericks team and it was the Warriors who pushed the taller Mavs around that series that they eventually won.
His versatility added with his attitude is what makes him irreplaceable on a team that's looking to win a fifth title this year.
He isn't just a guard-forward for the Spurs, but can switch to the power forward position and give his opposing big man a run for their money on defense and offense.
The Spurs tried this formula with another small forward they acquired in 2010 in Richard Jefferson, but he didn't show the same intensity or passion Jackson does. He may play with a passion, but he brings something that no other Spurs player does: he'll tell you about it. If he has something to tell you, he'll let you have it unlike the other quiet Spurs players.
His tough talk, in person or online since he's always social networking, is what makes the Spurs different from every other year. His teammates know not to fear on a drive or hard foul because he's got their back, just ask Serge Ibaka. That's an attribute that Popovich loves, but Pop knows this is something different than he's had to deal with:
"Jack's a pain in the (butt),...look at him, all he does is twitters." Star-Telegram.com
Popovich isn't a guy who endorses the spotlight much, especially if it gets his team negative publicity, but this is perhaps the attitude that's given life to the old legs of the Spurs' core in this last title run they're making. Tony Parker is playing at an MVP level, Manu Ginobili is still playing like Manu, and most importantly, Tim Duncan is playing like the Tim Duncan of old. You could probably describe Duncan playing "vintage", like how he played the last time he was teammates with Stephen Jackson.