Three years ago, Jarrett Jack had a career year with the Golden State Warriors. His job was to replace Steph Curry and make something happen. Logging thirty minutes, Jack scored from the perimeter, controlled the pace of the game, averaged 6 assists coming off the bench, scored 13 points, was the spark for a Mark Jackson Warriors team that lost in the second round of the playoffs to the San Antonio Spurs. Jack dropped 20+ points in 7 out of 13 playoff games and was looking forward to the annual free agent melodrama show that the NBA puts on every July. He appeared to have a home in the Bay.
But Jack’s career was put on hold while the Warriors chased Andre Iguoudala. Suddenly, there was no room for a new Jarrett Jack contract. He had to scramble to find a new NBA home.
Two years after that cold water in the face moment by the Warriors, Jarrett Jack is the starting point guard for the Brooklyn Nets. No one thinks he is a starting point guard. Most believe he is being asked to impersonate a thirty-four minute combo/guard while the Nets try to stay under the cap and become relevant, possibly for the free agent market of 2016.
Last year in Brooklyn, Jack’s numbers regressed. His field goal percentage and three point percentage dropped precipitously. But his assists remained Jarrett Jack like at 5 a game. In 2014-15, Jack as a point guard was one third the price of Williams. (Jack’s salary in 2014-15 was $6 million, Deron Williams was $19 million.)
The Nets, needing to decrease payroll, purged the mediocre moroseness of Deron Williams this off-season and replaced him with the best remaining guard of the bunch, Jarrett Jack. Starting is not a total oddity for Jack. He was a starter the second year of his career for the Trailblazers, starting 79 games, and he had decent numbers: 5 assists, 45% shooting. But the game has dramatically changed since then and what Jack is being asked to do is something skeptics don’t believe he can pull off even as Jack has never been a reckless scorer nor a ball hog. The most shots he has ever attempted per game was 14 when he was with the Hornets. Last year he took 10 shots a game. Still, he will be the leader on the floor with all of the pressure that entails. Pressure, as the saying goes, bursts pipes.
Not to sugarcoat it one bit, Jarrett Jack is a “B” level point guard. Last season he had the worst plus-minus of any NBA player who was on a playoff team. When he was on the floor the Nets were outscored by 7.8 points per 100 possessions. When he was on the bench the Nets outscored their opponents by 3 points per 100 possessions.
“You never want that attached to your name. It’s something I have to improve on. Hopefully this year I can reverse it.” Jarret Jack.
Team chemistry is a big hurdle Jack is going to have to overcome even with Deron Williams off the roster, to the pleasure of almost everyone. The Nets have to deal with the annual disappearing act of Andrea Bargnani. Can Brook Lopez not have foot surgery this season? Thomas Robinson is on the roster. In three years he has played for five teams. And then there is the enigma of Joe Johnson whose scoring talent is surpassed only by his sleep walking through games.
Not that Jack doesn’t have enough pressure on him to lead this team when he has never had to be a team leader, the Nets are in a must win situation. The lottery will do nothing for them. Their first round pick this year goes to Boston, the consequence of the Kevin Garnett trade. Their first round pick last year went to the Hawks as payment for the Joe Johnson deal.
“We don’t have to just go out there and say-‘Let’s prove them wrong.’ Collectively, we’re going to go out there with goals and individually we’re going to help answer some of these questions.”
The Nets won 38 games in the Eastern Conference last year and they didn’t get better in the off season. They are not talent rich. They brought in players who have failed elsewhere. They don’t have a true star and the pieces may not fit. So, proving people wrong by winning games, Jack’s primary job as point guard, will be the greatest challenge of his eleven year career.
photo via llananba