Jack trade paid off as season progressed

Monday, June 13, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Compared to other NBA players of similar skills and individual accomplishments, Jarrett Jack’s NBA career has taken place primarily out of the spotlight. He’s played in four cities (Portland, Indianapolis, Toronto and New Orleans) that aren’t considered major NBA markets. He didn’t appear in the playoffs until this spring. For a player with nearly 500 career games under his belt, that’s meant scant appearances on national TV and few chances for the experts on ESPN or TNT to talk about the point guard’s game.

That’s partly why it was gratifying to see Jack sink the biggest two points in the Hornets’ dramatic first-round Game 4 victory over the Lakers, a New Orleans win that deadlocked the series at 2-2. Although you can’t measure an entire season by one basket, Jack’s hoop punctuated a significant turnaround for him as a Hornet. Based on the way he played in his first two months here, it would’ve been difficult to envision any scenario where he had the ball in his hands at such a crucial moment.

Jack’s comfort level improved as much over the course of the regular season as any Hornets player, though it would be misleading to say that he made some amazing transformation. He essentially just returned to performing like the player he’d been over the first five-plus years of his career, a steady floor leader who’s adept at running an offense but can also score when necessary.

Here are a few additional quotes on Jack, who is under contract for two more years, through the 2012-13 season. After being traded to the Hornets in late November of last season, he’ll be looking forward to the chance to go through a full training camp with New Orleans this fall:

On Jack’s play in March when Chris Paul was sidelined by a concussion:
“He did a wonderful job stepping in for Chris when Chris went down. Even before that, when Chris was playing, coming off the bench, (Jack) did a great job of setting the tone. Being aggressive, offensively and defensively on the court. I’ve been around Jarrett since he came into the NBA. I’ve seen him play at a high level on many nights. When he gets the (minutes) to get into his flow, he can put up numbers. He can defend and he can run a team. The problem is, he’s playing behind Chris Paul. So I end up being the bad guy most nights, trying to juggle the lineup and get him in the game.”

On his role as backup point guard:
“I’m just being aggressive. I’m not necessarily coming out saying I’ve got to be the focal point for the team as far as scoring. I know we struggle in that department at times. I just try to fill whatever void is necessary. I know that since I’ve been in this league, teams try to go under on my pick-and-rolls, or are a little lax in their coverage of me. I just try to make them pay, hopefully get into a rhythm, then once they start keying in on me, I can start trying to find other people as well.”

On his friendship with starter Chris Paul:
“Before we were even teammates, all we ever talked about was winning, and trying to get the most out of our team and teammates. Regardless of our friendship or not, we know it’s never personal. We can yell at each other and get on 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.”

On frequently playing in the same backcourt with Chris Paul:
“We both can handle the ball. I think defensively, both of us can lock down an opposing two guard. Sometimes in transition you can get caught trying to find your man. But with us, we can guard each other’s man. It’s a luxury that we have with both of us being on the team. I know it’s a breath of fresh air for him to have someone like me who can take some of the ballhandling responsibilities off his shoulders for a couple minutes. Or if he’s playing off the ball, when we reverse the ball to him, they have to run out to him, and with his quickness he’s tough to defend.”

On his DUI arrest during the All-Star break and the impact it had on his perspective:
“At times, there are points in your life that grab your attention, make you focus and make you re-evaluate things. For me, that was one of them. That was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever dealt with as far as being put in a negative light and connotation. I’m just trying to turn a negative into a positive, put it behind me. It made me re-focus myself. At the end of the day, I just needed to focus on my business, my work. I needed to be a professional both on and off the court.”

On the ups and downs of his first season with the Hornets:
“Luckily for me I have really good teammates. 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. My comfort level is getting better. It was very difficult (at first). I’ve never been in a situation where I was traded midseason, having to grasp hold and hitting the learning curve behind everyone else. It was difficult, but I expected that. Maybe not to last as long as it did, but hopefully those days are behind me and I can just keep moving forward.”