Rookie Tales: Jarrett Jack
All it takes is one media session with Jarrett Jack to realize that he’s the perfect veteran presence for Mike Brown’s young ballclub. No player tells it like it is or breaks it down better than the eight-year man from Georgia Tech.
The Cavaliers are Jack’s sixth NBA team, but his first three were spent in the Pacific Northwest. Originally drafted by the Nuggets at No. 22 overall in 2005, Jack was traded to the Blazers on Draft night. After his three-year stint with Portland, Jack played for the Pacers, Raptors, Hornets and Warriors before joining the Cavaliers as a free agent this summer.
In today’s installment of Rookie Tales the Cavaliers veteran guard talks about his first year in Portland with a young Blazers squad ….
When you joined the Blazers in 2005, what was the state of the team?
Jarrett Jack: They were just getting out of that whole “Jailblazer” regime. At the time it was (guys like) Darius Miles, Zach Randolph and Ruben Patterson – (although he got traded that year). And we were a young team. We were the youngest team in the league. There was Sebastian Telfair, Steve Blake, Juan Dixon, Joel Przyzbilla, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster. All young guys.
How was that experience: breaking in with a group of young guys?
Jack: It was different. I think I had just turned 21. It was an eye-opening experience, just my first experience in the NBA, obviously. So you’re already kinda walking on eggshells, so to speak. But it was fun introduction to the business. We had a rocky first year, to say the least, but your first experience, getting to play against the best players in the world, it’s something you’ll never forget.
Who took you under their wing as a rookie?
Jack: Juan Dixon was probably the closest player. But the person that probably taught me the ropes was assistant coach Monty Williams.We’re both from D.C., and we kind of have one of those 360 degree stories. He used to come to the rec center and my father ran the rec center. And I remember when I was very, very, very young my dad taking me into the gym and just pointing guys out to me. ‘That guy’s Monty Williams, he’s going to Notre Dame. Him and a couple other guys going to Division I.’ And even though I was very young, that was my first experience of seeing people who are from my community, where I’m from, can actually make their dreams a reality. And Monty Williams was actually the first Division I-turned-pro player that I had seen. It was something that I never forgot and it was a name that stuck with me. And, crazy enough, as soon as I got into the league, the first coach who was getting me out on the court at 8 in the morning was Monty Williams.
Did any players help you break in?
Jack: Probably Juan Dixon. I knew his brother from other stuff. And obviously I had known him because we were both products of the ACC. And he kind of just taught me things. And Steve Blake also – just watching him and how he went about his business. And then that kind of allowed me to formulate my own routine after that.
Were any veterans particularly tough on you?
Jack: No. When I was a rookie I tried to shut up as much as possible. Seriously, I just tried to learn. The NBA game is so much more different than the college game, so I tried to come in there, work my butt off every day and make a name for myself within the organization and with my teammates. And like I said, I just wanted to learn as much as possible.
What was it like, a kid from the East Coast playing far away from family and friends in the Pacific Northwest?
Jack: It was different. I’m not a guy that has people living with him or whatever. So I went out there solely on my own. And I was used to it because I had left home at a young age – like 15 – but just going all the way out there and in the NBA, it’s crazy because you have a lot more free time on your hands. You work two, three hours a day and then you have the other 21 hours to yourself.
And I always joke around that that’s how people get in the most trouble. I had a lot idle time, and it was like, ‘What do I do now?’ And you had to really grow up and get to know yourself as a player and a person and for me, I just found extra hours in the gym. I lived right by the practice facility, so it wasn’t but a two-minute commute anyway.
Was there any type of rookie initiation for you with Portland?
Jack: You know what? I used to be so quiet, they’d forget I was a rookie. But they used to mess with Martell (Webster) a lot. Because he was 17-18, he was a little more rambunctious than I was. So I kinda laid in the weeds and only spoke when spoken to, and they kind of left me alone.
Of course I had to do a couple things – run go get this, go get that. But that was nothing. For the way they took care of me as a rookie, doing that stuff was really nothing.