Not Everyone In New Orleans Is Struggling
The compressed NBA schedule has been tough on teams throughout the year, but few have struggled as much as the New Orleans Hornets. It started in the offseason when superstar point guard Chris Paul was traded away, and it has continued into the regular season, where the Hornets have dealt with an injury plagued year that has resulted in a bottom three record in the league.
The Hornets are also the only team owned by the NBA and have been run by the NBA’s front office since last season. The unusual circumstance has led to numerous trade rumors, including one involving Chris Kaman, who was recently sent home for several games while the team explored its options. During all of the chaos surrounding the Hornets, however, one player has put together a breakout season.
Point guard Jarrett Jack.
“I’m being sure of myself, I’m being aggressive,” Jack told HOOPSWORLD. “Having been in this league for several years you tend to figure it out. I’ve been able to pick and choose my spots and I know when to get others involved as well.”
The trade of Paul didn’t just clear minutes for Jack, but it also took the pressure off of him having to play perfectly whenever he was in the game. The days of Jack looking over his shoulder are long gone.
“He’s getting an opportunity to do what he thought he could do,” Head Coach Monty Williams explained. “It’s one of those situations where he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder when he makes a mistake. Last year, he was doing that all year long. Every time he made a mistake he’d be looking at me. When you have Chris Paul sitting over there waiting to get in the game, that’s tough, I don’t care who you are.”
Jack’s 14.9 points per game, 6.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds are all career highs. While some players are withering under the intensity of the lockout shortened 66-game season, Jack is thriving.
“I try to get as much rest as I can and make sure I do my work to keep myself ready to play consistent basketball.” Jack also credits his coach for fresh legs. “Coach has been doing a good job of not killing us at practice, allowing us to keep our legs. It’s going to be wear and tear regardless if it’s 66 or 82 games. This is a little bit heightened, but you still have to be able to take your bruises and keep on going.”
The Hornets have also dealt with more distractions off the court then the average NBA team. From rumors surrounding a potential buyer for the Hornets, to injuries that have allowed the team’s big acquisition from the Paul trade, Eric Gordon, to only play in 2 games this season.
“Every team deals with injuries, you can’t just say ‘if we didn’t have injuries we’d be in such and such situation,’” Jack explained. “Every team goes through injuries, it’s part of the season. It sucks, but that just is what it is.”
As for the team finally getting a new owner, Jack is more concerned with winning then who is calling the shots in the front office.
“I just go out there and play hard, whether we have an owner or not,” Jack said. “I’m still in the NBA and I’m still doing what I love to do each and every night, so what is there to be upset or worried about?”
Jack’s stellar play hasn’t led to many victories yet; the Hornets are last in the Western Conference and seem destined for a high lottery pick in this summer’s Draft.
In hopes of sparking his bench, a weakness according to coach Williams, Jack was put into a sixth man role, a role that Jack has accepted and excelled in.
“We needed some leadership on the bench and we needed some scoring, Jarrett gives us that,” Williams discussed. “I’ve talked to him a little bit about it, but I didn’t want to make it into a big deal. Some people may think that because we are winning games I’m just staying with the lineup, but that’s not the case. I think the balance we have, with Jarrett being with the [bench] group helps us.”
Jack has proven he is capable of starting for the Hornets, but he admits to being just as comfortable coming off the bench. As a true professional, don’t expect Jack to make any headlines complaining about his role with the team.
“I’ve been in both situations before. Coach and me spoke about it earlier and it’s just a different role that I’m going to have to assume throughout the second part of the season.”
Jack continued, “I don’t know if it’s day by day, or if we are riding our momentum because we are playing well. I just play basketball I don’t make decisions. Whatever decision is made I just deal with it and adjust to it and be a professional about it.”
Even though coach Williams won’t commit to Jack eventually returning to the starting lineup, he has left the door wide open. If the injuries continue to mount for the Hornets, expect Williams to make a quick move and put Jack back into the starting lineup.
“I don’t want to predict lineups because we’ve had to change so much this year,” Williams explained. “It’s not even in my focus right now because of the situations and injuries. Based on what’s happened it will probably have to change because we’ve had more injuries than I thought we would have. It will probably get changed because that’s just the way it is for us.”
The Hornets appear to be open to trading just about anyone on their roster if it puts the team in a better position to be sold. The trade deadline is only a few weeks away and as March 15th draws closer, its possible Jack’s name could come up, but don’t expect the rumors to slow him down.
“That’s just a part of the league,” Jack said. “I’ve been in a trade before, two trades actually and that’s just a part of the business. You get introduced to it really early in this league and you understand that it’s a part of the NBA just like anything else.
“I’m here as long as they will have me. The New Orleans Hornets is the only thing on my radar; it’s my focal point at this particular time.”
With so much turmoil surrounding the Hornets, Jack’s career season is a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing year. The Hornets are a team in transition, and having an unselfish leader like Jack will help them as they look to the future.