WALTHAM — Late in the first quarter of the Celtics’ preseason game against the Hornets Saturday, rookie point guard Demetrius Jackson watched as Charlotte tried to take advantage of a two-for-one opportunity.
In this situation in the final minute of a period, a team looks to strike fast enough to get the ball back for one last possession, but not so fast that the other team is able to take two shots in the closing moments, too.
For some reason, college teams rarely attempt to capitalize on these situations. So for a player like Jackson, the 45th pick of this year’s draft, it is all part of his rookie education. Most of the Celtics’ regular starters did not play Saturday, so All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas was on the bench near Jackson.
With such a valuable resource sitting there, Jackson peppered Thomas about the anatomy of the perfect two-for-one attack. He asked Thomas what he looks for and, most important, when it is best to take a shot.
Then late in the third quarter, Jackson was on the floor and able to find out for himself. With 28.8 seconds left, he drained a 3-pointer, meaning the Celtics were likely to have another possession in the period, perhaps with about five seconds left.
After Charlotte’s Christian Wood dunked the ball with seven seconds remaining, the Celtics hurried the other way and Jackson drilled another 3-pointer. The two-for-one had been a success, and perhaps more important, Jackson felt a bit more comfortable with a relatively unfamiliar concept.
“It’s really cool to be educated by these guys,” Jackson said before Monday’s practice. “And it’s cool to be able to go out and really put it into action.
“I think what helps keep me motivated and in the right frame of mind is knowing how much improvement I need and how much I can learn.”
Through the first two weeks of training camp, Jackson has leaned on various teammates for morsels.
Forward Jae Crowder has emphasized the importance of developing a routine the night before a game and on the day of a game, because it helps him maximize his potential.
Forward Jonas Jerebko has spoken to Jackson about reads off screens, so Jackson can be more comfortable in his movements on defense. And Jackson has studied how Thomas’s training and practice sessions seem to have a clear focus and purpose.
“I just want to learn,” Jackson said. “I feel like right now I just want to learn from the guys that came before me. I’ve watched Terry [Rozier] and Isaiah a ton. I really watch Marcus [Smart], too. Our veterans have done a great job of really helping educate me on the game.
“So I’m just listening to these guys, and when I do get a chance to go in, I just want to utilize those things and learn and develop and play as hard as I can.”
“He just asks questions,” Crowder said. “He wants to know. He wants to learn. He’s eager to learn. I think he’s a great kid. I think he’s going to be a great player.”
Jackson played sparingly in Boston’s first two preseason games. In seven total minutes, he made 1 of 3 field-goal attempts and did not have a rebound or an assist. But on Saturday, the Celtics rested four players, and Rozier sat out the second half after his lip was gashed.
Jackson played 15 minutes, tallying 9 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists. He knows that after playing 35.9 minutes per game as a junior at Notre Dame last year, this season will be different, so he will do all he can to stay prepared.
“He’s at a deep position,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, “so the thing for him is he can learn and grow playing against these guys every day.”
Celtics assistant coach Brandon Bailey has a drill that attempts to simulate being put into the game cold, with no warning. Bailey will randomly find Jackson at any moment and instruct him to immediately begin a drill in which he has to make a certain amount of shots.
“It kind of simulates just being grabbed off the bench,” Jackson said. “You never know when you’re going to get called. And then you’ve got to make shots.”