Coming off a serious knee injury that took a season and a half off his career, Jarrett Jack was brought in by the Knicks to mentor the likes of Frank Ntilikina. Turns out he became a starter, too, when Plan A on the Knicks’ drawing board went up in flames.
But in the franchise record-tying fourth straight season when 50 losses became the norm, Jack became Plan B, then Plan C and if there is a Plan D, he was probably that, too. With the acquisition of Emmanuel Mudiay at the trade deadline and Trey Burke’s emergence from NBA purgatory, Jack became a mentoring spectator.
Then he was needed over the weekend. And Jack produced. Having played in one game for just seven minutes since Feb. 14, Jack played 12 minutes Friday and 26 minutes Saturday.
“This particular situation, I’ve never been in it before. It’s easy to give into it and sulk and be mad and moan and whine,” said Jack, who finished with 18 points and seven assists in the 115-102 Garden loss to the Bucks on Saturday. “A lot of people pride themselves on being tough. Can you deal with something that’s probably one of the toughest things you ever dealt with in your professional career, take it in stride but still be a pro about it? And still have a positive impact on the guys that are playing regardless if your number’s getting called or not? I just think that’s what a solid teammate’s supposed to do.”
It’s what Jack did. It’s why his former coach, Mark Jackson, praised him as “the ultimate professional.” It’s why his current coach, Jeff Hornacek expected Jack to respond.
“He really hasn’t played much since the All-Star break. He always keeps himself ready. He’s a professional. He knows how to play,” Hornacek said. “We knew Jarrett could do that. That’s no surprise.”
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And Jack fought back from that January 2016 torn ACL injury, admitting, “the crazy thing is even the first half of [this] season I still wasn’t anywhere near healthy.”
Throughout the hardships, Jack did his job. He helped and guided younger players, set an example. Jack really is into helping others. Before the game, he handed out players’ sneakers to young fans. Maybe they were like 39 sizes too big, but it’s the thought. It’s something Jack learned from his dad, who would donate shoes to the needy in Sierra Leone.
“Fans come here and spend their money — they can spend their money and go wherever they want to. They work hard for their money. They decide to come here and watch us. That’s just a way for me to try and show my appreciation,” Jack said. “I try to seek out kids that are super respectful because there are some people who think they’re entitled to a whole bunch of things when they come to games. We got boatloads of sneakers back here and usually we don’t do anything with them. Why not go out there and make a kid’s day, make a kid smile? I think it’s a pretty cool thing to do.
“Growing up I never saw an NBA player walking around my neighborhood or just bumping into them. I never saw that in my life. If you can give that to a kid, why not?”