There was a time, not too long ago, when Jarrett Jack thought his career was done. He had a torn ACL, a partially torn meniscus and, progressing into his mid-30s, the slow recovery wavered Jack’s confidence.
“The rehab was easy as far as putting in the work and doing the exercises. But the doubt of, ‘When I get back on the court, am I still going to be able to play? Am I doing this all for no reason?'” Jack told the Daily News. “Even when I do the exercises, man, it’s still not feeling the same. Wondering physically if you’ll ever get back and then after you do, mentally not allowing that to stop you.”
From the initial injury with the Brooklyn Nets, it was almost two years before Jack was back playing meaningful minutes. And now he’s doing it against all odds and expectations, emerging as the Knicks starting point guard despite being the only player on the roster without a guaranteed contract.
“It keeps you on your toes, forces you to stay sharp – knowing you can’t take any day or any situation for granted,” Jack said. “I know a lot of the owners would love to have it that way in the collective bargaining agreement.”
There are many reasons the Knicks won four of their last five games heading into Sunday. The biggest is Kristaps Porzingis. But also somewhere high on the list is the decision to move Jack into the lineup to replace Ramon Sessions.
He isn’t filling up the boxscore, but that’s also the point: Jack worked well with the starters because he rarely looks to create for himself. He’s the antithesis of Derrick Rose. In five starts before Sunday, Jack averaged more assists (6.8) than shot attempts (6.4) while committing only 1.6 turnovers per game.
The Knicks were also 4-1 in those games.
“He’s a thinking point guard,” Jeff Hornacek said. “If some guy hasn’t had a shot in a while, he’s going to figure out a way to get him the ball. If somebody’s hot, he’s going to figure out a way to give him the ball. He’s out there thinking about the game. Jarrett is a veteran guy who’s really done a nice job finding the mismatch when there is one, getting the guy who’s hot, make sure he calls a play for that person. He’s just a good team leader that way.”
The 34-year-old’s play will also force the Knicks into some tough decisions. With Joakim Noah slated to return from his PED suspension on Nov. 13, New York will have to create a roster spot to keep Jack. Preferably, the Knicks would like to get a draft pick in return by trading away a frontcourt player – with both Kyle O’Quinn and Willy Hernangomez on desirable contracts.
However, the Knicks could also waive a player and eat his guaranteed contract. Sessions, Michael Beasley and Mindaugas Kuzminskas are the obvious candidates.
It’s an unexpected conundrum for a team that plotted for three point guards ahead of Jack in the rotation. Only six months ago, he was ruled out for the season after re-injuring his knee while on a 10-day contract with the Pelicans.
It was diagnosed as another tear, but Jack said it was simply stitches coming undone in his repaired meniscus. It was one of the low points that prompted Jack to contemplate his basketball career.
But now that he’s back, Jack is more important to the Knicks than anybody imagined.
“I had done all this rehab. I did everything they told me to do. They told me to do nine leg lifts, I did nine. And then to still kind of run into a roadblock after was like, ‘Man, is this all for nothing?'” Jack recalled. “So to be able to come back from it, to get through the highs and lows, the dips and dark places as they say in the rehab process – I’m thankful for it now.”
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