On one hand, Hornets point guard Jarrett Jack had the best statistical season of his seven years in the NBA, averaging career bests in several categories. Though he entered training camp as a backup, by season’s end he led New Orleans in scoring average (among players who qualified in that category) and assists. On the other hand, 2011-12 marked the sixth time in his seven years that he has missed the playoffs.
After making his NBA postseason debut for the 2010-11 Hornets – including draining a crucial basket that led to a Game 4 victory against the Lakers – Jack was forced to sit out the spring tournament after NOLA went 21-45 this season. Often one of the NBA’s best second-string point guards since joining the league in 2005, Jack has generally been underappreciated due to playing for so many sub-.500 squads. He was in Portland from 2005-08, just before the Trail Blazers reached the postseason three straight years. The Indiana and Toronto teams Jack played for also were competitive but missed the playoffs in 2009 and 2010 despite going 36-46 and 40-42 in the Eastern Conference.
Aside from being in the wrong place at the wrong time, another theme of Jack’s career has been durability, which made his late-season absence due to injury an unexpected development. Jack played 82-plus games for four consecutive seasons prior to missing time this season. It’s always difficult to pinpoint the exact reason behind an injury, but it’s possible the hectic pace of the 66-game schedule contributed to Jack sitting the final three-plus weeks of the season. “To see him get hurt, you know it was because of the wear and tear,” Monty Williams said, alluding to how rare it’s been for Jack to sit out games in the NBA. “That’s one thing you worry about with the guys.”
During his downtime, Jack continued to serve in a leadership role, cheering his teammates from the sideline. The team captain also occasionally jumped in as the third man in the Cox Sports Television booth, joining Bob Licht and Gil McGregor (which didn’t prevent Jack from yelling encouragement to other Hornets players, even while wearing a headset). In a good news-bad news year, Jack sat out an unlucky final 13 games with his stress fracture.
“I’m very disappointed, because you’d like to finish the season the same way you started it,” Jack told reporters in early April upon learning he’d miss the rest of the season. “But it gives me some clarity. I was telling you guys all along I didn’t remember doing anything to my ankle or foot that warranted the swelling or the pain I had been feeling. Getting the MRI and finding out I had a stress fracture, it made stuff makes sense. It stinks because I want to be out there with my guys. It hurts to be on the sideline, kind of feeling helpless.”