By: Lindsey Mitchell, Hornets.com
For the last five seasons, come mid-April, Jarrett Jacks season was over. Jack did some traveling once the regular season was over, but it wasnt to a tropical destination or home to relax he was visiting other NBA cities with one purpose: to watch basketball.
Ive come down to New Orleans a number of times and stayed with Chris (Paul) and watched him play in the postseason Ive lived vicariously through him, Jack said. I spend my time traveling around and watching my friends play in playoff games. Its what I love to do. That is when the atmosphere is the most intense and its when the stakes are the highest. Im excited to experience it firsthand.
Jack will play in his first playoff contest on Sunday at STAPLES Center when the Hornets play against the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers played in 23 national TV games this season while the Hornets played in two. Jack will have his opportunity to shine as the series grabs a number prime-time TV slots.
Making the playoffs is as big as getting drafted for me its a dream come true, Jack said. Its something Ive watched from the side as a spectator. Getting to play in the prime-time games is where everyone wants to be. Im so excited we just have to be ready to go.
Jack played his first game with the Hornets on Nov. 22, also at the STAPLES Center, against the L.A. Clippers. In his first couple months with the team, Jack struggled from the floor and averaged 6.2 points on 36.1 percent shooting, including 29.7 percent from three-point range, while averaging 16.7 minutes in his first 41 games. In the last 29 games of the season, Jack averaged 11.8 points on 46.2 percent shooting, including hitting on 38.3 percent from long range. Jacks minutes increased to 23.9 minutes per game.
Jack registered 10 or more points on nine occasions, including one 20-point performance in his first 41 games as a Hornet. Over the last 29 games of the season, he had 19 games with 10 or more points and four 20-point performances.
People forget, when you come in to a new team, those first five, six or seven games are your training camp. Youre trying to learn the system, learn the locker room, and learn the city. There are so many things that are new, Monty Williams said of Jack. In February, I started to see him more comfortable on the floor. Hes not looking to me to call plays anymore. He knows what he wants to call, and Im starting to play him with (Chris Paul) now, and thats big for Chris, because it takes him off the ball and doesnt force him to use as much energy.
Looking back at the times that he struggled, Jack remembers a lot of support from his teammates.
Luckily for me, I have really good teammates, he said. Even when I was struggling, they were always saying keep being aggressive and things will change. Keep going after it and working. I just knew it would turn around. It was very difficult (at first). Ive never been in a situation where I was traded midseason, having to grasp hold and hitting the learning curve behind everyone else.
Jack and Pauls relationship began during his college years at Georgia Tech. The two competed against one another and maintained a friendship as they both entered the NBA.
Chris and I, before we were even teammates, all we ever talked about was winning, and trying to get the most out of our team and teammates, Jack recalled. Regardless of our friendship or not, we know its never personal. We can yell at each other, in any way we see fit, to make the other person more aggressive or have a positive impact on the game. We think alike in a lot of the same situations. If he sees something about the way a guy is guarding me, he lets me know. I try to do the same for him. We try to lead each other. With us both having the ball and playing the same position, the team is going to go as we go. When I come in the game, I try not to have a drop-off at all.
As Jack headed into his first playoff series, he recounted the games hes been to, as well as solicited advice from his longtime friend.
Weve laughed about it a lot I told him, two and three years ago, Id be making plans to come stay with you. I said to him, maybe I should come stay in my old room at your place like old, Jack said. He hasnt given me any specific advice, but weve just talked about how everything is elevated from here. We need to be ready to fight.
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