Versatile Vet Helping Lead the Way

March 31, 2014
Jarrett Jack
Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images

The guys on the team call him “Captain Jack.” And after Sunday’s convincing win over the Pacers, Coach Mike Brown wasn’t sure if he was a “floor general” or a “floor lieutenant” or a “floor commander.”

So, we’re not exactly sure what Jarrett Jack’s exact rank is with the Wine and Gold. We just know that he’s been leading Cleveland’s troops in the right direction as the season hits the homestretch.

Jack has been one of the key components to the Cavaliers’ late season revival, helping propel the playoff push that has the team in hot pursuit of the postseason with seven games remaining. Over the past few weeks, he’s made some of the biggest plays in some of the squad’s biggest games – including a white-hot fourth quarter in New York and valiant run in Detroit that led to Dion Waiters’ game-winner.

But he hasn’t just been good scoring the ball. Jack has been the backcourt’s grown up, guiding a young squad through some situations they simply haven’t seen before. He’s one of only four Cavaliers with playoff experience. And in two weeks, he’s looking to share that wealth.

Of course, the eight-year vet plans on taking the proper approach in getting there. The Cavaliers were 2.5 games behind the Hawks -- and 1.5 behind the Knicks -- as of Monday morning. Everyone is scoreboard-watching at this point of the season. And Jack knows the Cavs have to keep winning in order to keep watching.

“Let’s just play and let the chips fall where they may, and see what happens,” said Jack. “It doesn’t matter if we don’t take care of our business. If we don’t come in here and fight and scrap and get these W’s by any means necessary, then what the other teams are doing it doesn’t mean much.”

As the postseason picture continues to get interesting in the East, Jack was rock-solid again on Sunday afternoon, finishing with 11 points, six rebounds, a game-high nine assists and one block as the Wine and Gold throttled his old team at The Q.

His performance was nothing new. Over the past eight contests, since March 18, Jack is averaging 15.0 points on 49 percent shooting, adding 3.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists.

Nightly Notable: Jarrett Jack

The Maryland native has never offered any excuses this season, but he did illuminate his late season renaissance.

”I had a little bit of knee problems earlier in the year and, I don’t know why, but around the All-Star Break, my body’s been feeling great, I don’t know why,” explained Jack. “But obviously that’s allowed me to be more of myself. That’s the only thing that I can pinpoint. That, and Coach, constantly staying in my ear, telling me to stick with it.”

Coach Brown has leaned on his veteran guard all season, but never more than the Wine and Gold’s recent run without their All-Star point guard.

“Jarrett’s been huge with his leadership on the floor,” praised Coach Brown. “He’s another guy that’s good in the huddles, he’s good on the floor. We put him in middle pick-and-roll and he’s tough to contain. If he gets any room at all, from 17 feet to 19 feet, we feel like it’s going in. He’s made some huge plays for us down the stretch for quite a while now and we need that from him – especially with Kyrie out.”

Jarrett has been Cleveland’s jack-of-all-trades this year, running the Cavs’ second unit through much of the season before being inserted into the starting lineup in early February. The Wine and Gold are 14-15 since he became the starter on February 1.

But the team’s really found their rhythm of late, and that includes their starting point – especially in the clutch. During Cleveland’s three-game win streak last week, Jack combined for 26 fourth-period points, going 11-for-15 from the floor in the money quarter.

But aside from individual success, he’s been one of the guys getting everyone involved.

“We’ve been able to get a lot more ball movement, and that’s something that coach has been stressing all season,” explained Jack. “And finally, it’s kind of coming to fruition and it’s working for us. And you see a number of guys benefiting. You see Delly out here having a career-high night, it could be Spence one day, Dion came through for us late in the clutch. I’ve kind of been able to get through and get opportunities for other guys.

“I think when we share the wealth, it makes us that much more difficult to guard. And guys have just been doing a tremendous job of reversing the ball, hitting the open guy and creating plays for themselves and their teammates.”

Over the course of Jack’s career, he’s been a double-digit scorer five times and has made a pair of trips to the postseason – including with New Orleans in 2010-11 and last spring’s riveting run with the Warriors. After being tabbed with the 22nd pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, he has played less than 79 games in a season only once during his eight-year NBA career. And he’s been an iron man again during his initial campaign in Cleveland.

And if Jack strikes you as an intelligent, patient player – that’s because he’s exactly that as a person. This past summer, he kept a promise to his parents to get his college degree after leaving Georgia Tech for the NBA after his junior season – graduating with a B.A. in Business Management from the prestigious southern school.

Jarrett has seen a lot during his eight-year NBA run, and that’s given him the perfect perspective to lead Cleveland’s young guns through the postseason push after some tough times this year.

”Once you’ve been put in those positions before, you understand now what it takes now to dig your way out,” opined Jack. “Obviously, you don’t like playing from behind anywhere – be it at home or on the road – but we’re somewhat battle-tested in that sense. And guys do a good job of sticking with it.

“We very well could have tucked our tails and said: to heck with it. But guys kept fighting. And that’s kind of the motto, the mantra that we’ve hung our hat on all season. Some games it’s worked out for us, some games it didn’t.”

It’s been working out pretty well lately. And Jack has been the head of the snake for what’s become a very dangerous squad down the stretch. He’s done it with his play, he’s done it with his experience. And he’s got the Cavaliers poised to strike as they embark on a big two-game trip this week.

“That leadership on the floor and off the floor has been terrific, especially down the stretch in tight ball games, (Jack)’s kept us composed offensively,” concluded Coach Brown. “In the past, if we were down, we rushed ourselves or we were going too fast for the situation. No matter what the time and score is, Jack has done a terrific job of understanding and feeling the game in helping his teammates out.”