When Michael Adams first met Tamicha Jackson, the Washington Mystics coach told his new point guard, "I need you to be my eyes."
But 11 games into the season, the tie between Adams and Jackson runs much deeper than that. When Adams watches her play, he sees himself, 15 years younger and transplanted to the women's game. She's not just his eyes; she's his spirited hustle, his quickness and his high-arcing three-point shot.
She's gritty, upbeat and slightly out of control -- just like Adams during his 11-year NBA career. And, going into today's game against the Comets in Houston, Jackson is beginning to emerge as the leader Adams needs her to become.
"Watching her is like watching myself play," Adams said. "She plays a lot like I did. I feel like I'm coaching myself, and that can be pretty fun."
It can be agonizing, too. Earlier this season, when Jackson tended to bring the ball upcourt too fast and shoot too often, Adams hesitated to chastise her. After all, he had played similarly 10 years ago, and had always hated it when a coach told him to be patient or settle down.
So instead of chaining his fiery point guard, Adams pulled Jackson aside and spoke from experience.
"He just kind of told me that you can play like that, up-tempo, and have it work with the team game," Jackson said. "He told me take out my energy on defense and by talking on the court."
It might have been Adams's best advice so far as the Mystics' coach. Since that early season sit-down, many of Jackson's weaknesses have disappeared.
Wild shots? Jackson's shooting 50 percent from three-point range and 46 percent from the field, the second best mark on her team. Out of control play? Jackson averages three assists for every turnover she makes. Inconsistency? She scores a steady eight points per game, the best of any non-starter.
"She's just been awesome," Mystics guard Stacey Dales-Schuman said. "The way she plays, she's just really good at running this team."
In practice, the Mystics rely on Jackson for their pulse. While Chamique Holdsclaw is the team's best player, Jackson is its best talker. During scrimmages, she bounces from one teammate to the next and shouting motivation.
During Friday's practice, Jackson's inspirational words revolved around beating Houston. A win would move the Mystics to 6-6; they haven't been at .500 since the second game of the year. "We're getting over the hump," Jackson screamed to no one in particular during practice. "This is our game, baby."
"I'm going to be more vocal in games, too," Jackson said. "Coach wants me to do that. He thinks I can get this team going, and I believe him. The two of us work well together."