There’s an old adage that Sam Mitchell used to preach that playing time is like oxygen for NBA players. Well, for Jarrett Jack, winning games and making it to the playoffs is his oxygen. The problem is for the first five seasons of his NBA career, he failed to play a single game in the playoffs.
Instead of relishing his opportunity to live out the dream of playing in the NBA, Jack was haunted by an inability to play for a team where he could play meaningful basketball into May and June.
There were countless times during his time here in Toronto where Jack was visibly frustrated after losses and when the team failed to make the playoffs you could tell it was tough for him to embrace. When Chris Bosh bolted for South Beach you knew Jack’s time in Toronto was going to be short-lived because of his desire to play on a playoff team.
Jack came close to making the playoffs during his time in Portland, Indiana and Toronto, before finally making a quick appearance as a member of the New Orleans Hornets against Los Angeles Lakers. That series was nothing more than a tease as his Hornets were ushered out of the playoffs after six games.
This season Jack appears to have finally secured a prominent role on a team poised to make some noise in the playoffs. Golden State currently has a record of 28-17 and look poised after the Rudy Gay trade to leapfrog Memphis in the Western Conference standings.
Besides the success of his team, Jack’s presence has helped Stephen Curry and David Lee play at all-star levels this season.
“He has been huge for us,” Curry raved before the game against Toronto. “Obviously a guy like that with his caliber of talent to come off the bench and close out games and play significant minutes is big for us. He has been playing big plays for us all year. It just adds a boost to our attack when we have a vocal guy that’s not afraid to challenge guys and keep our focus on the season.”
Jack’s vocal leadership this season has also been appreciated by David Lee.
“Yeah, he talks a lot,” Lee joked. “He’s a huge part of our leadership and to have him as the backup point guard has been huge for us all season long. He makes solid plays for everybody, not just scoring the ball, but getting open looks for others as well.”
During the game against Toronto, Curry went down with an injury to his foot. Jack stepped up to help Golden State go on a 30-20 run to close out the game and steal a much-needed win on the road.
That kind of calming veteran presence was huge for a young Warriors team.
“Adding a veteran point guard is one of the thing we wanted to do this summer,” Mark Jackson said. “Last year we were searching for answers when Steph (Curry) went down. This year, credit to our ownership and management, we went and got a legitimate backup guard that is as good as any backup guard in this league and he has the ability to start. He has toughness, an ability to lead and he’s not afraid of the big moments. It was just great for him to be ready and bring this one home for us.”
Jack has long been known as a vocal leader, but on Golden State he’s found himself on a tight, cohesive team that is full of players willing to be vocal and shown leadership. It’s allowed him to be one of the guys and assert his opinions when it’s needed instead of forcing things or always having to play a vocal role in the locker room or on the court.
“We lead by committee around here,” Jack explained. “It’s never just one guy talking all the time. Myself, Steph (Curry), David Lee, Draymond Green all get a chance to be vocal. That’s the great thing about this team – guys don’t care where the leadership comes from. I’ve been on some teams where if you’re a rookie they didn’t like you to talk or feel that you deserved to talk yet. Regardless of the source of the information, as long as it’s right and it needs to be said, we don’t really care where it comes from.”
Jack finds himself in a great position this season where his team is winning a ton of games, he’s not shouldering the responsibility of being the sole vocal leader on the team and he’s posting great stats.
You’d think Jack would be reveling in his team winning games and having a great season stat wise, but talking with him he seems to have reached the point in his career where he wants to be a traditional point guard that just wants to make his teammates better.
While talking with him before the game against Toronto he claimed to be happy just making his teammates better.
“It’s fun, it’s refreshing,” Jack admitted to me. “But we really preach selfless basketball here. I think when you put someone else’s goals in front of your own it’s just a really selfless thing. We play for each other in this locker room. I think when you do that your goals fall right in line as well. I take the floor every time and try to help David Lee make it to the all-star game. Help Steph (Curry) get to the all-star game. Or I’m trying to help somebody get another year on their contract. I want to help Coach Jackson get coach of the year. Those are the reasons why I take the floor and try to play as hard as a can and not so much for the benefits that I’m going to reap on my own individual situation.”
Sure, making his teammates better is high on his priorities, but making the playoffs? You can be rest assured that’s still high on his list of priorities as well.
With the way Golden State has been playing this season it looks like Jack won’t be gasping for air this April and May.