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News » Jack gets back on track

Jack gets back on track

Jack gets back on track Basketball REPORTER

Jarrett Jack got his big contract this past summer and has pretty much failed to deliver.

But this isn't one of those NBA stories: Guy gets big money, buys house on Easy Street, never leaves home.

Yes, Jack has struggled mightily for most of the early stages of the season since signing a four-year, $20-million contract with the Toronto Raptors in the off-season.

But no, Jack is not laughing his way to the bank. Not his style.

"Jarrett just tries to do well," said Chris Bosh, a friend of Jack's since they were freshman together at Georgia Tech. "That's his thing . . . if he feels he's not producing like he should be, he's not going to be happy about it."

And while Jack isn't the first professional athlete to get paid and stop playing, he's one of the few to call himself on it.

"It wasn't so much I didn't want to let myself down," Jack said yesterday as he was getting ready to play his first game against the Indiana Pacers, his former team. "I didn't want to let everyone else down, you know what I mean? That was some added pressure in the beginning, it affected my play a little bit."

He's well versed in the handful of NBA players who land big contracts and opt for semi-retirement. Jack is at the opposite extreme: He got his money, but he's so concerned about living up to expectations it was hampering his performance.

A career 34.1-per-cent three-point shooter, he went the entire preseason and three games of the regular season before hitting his first triple.

He's a player known for defence and being a solid digester of scouting reports, determined to lead by word and deed, so statistics are never going to fully favour a player such as Jack. But it's hard to make the case that someone with a player efficiency rating of 8.92 - 258th in the NBA - is having a good start to his Raptors career.

It got to the point that Raptors head coach Jay Triano sat down with Jack, who has been relieving Jose Calderon at point guard and playing alongside him as a shooting guard in some situations, and implored him to put his rough start out of his mind.

"It doesn't matter what level you play at, certain guys dwell on the fact they're not making shots or not making plays," Triano said. "So one thing we said to him was do all the little things: play good defence, do the hustle things. Your shot will eventually come."

It came last Friday night, as if on cue. Jack delivered a season-high 17 points and three assists without a turnover and knocked down a crucial pair of threes late in the Raptors' win over the Miami Heat. On Sunday against the Orlando magic, he had a season-high 11 assists. He hasn't had a turnover in three games.

The timing couldn't be better. Tonight Jack plays his old teammates with the Pacers. Indiana was in town early and practising at the Raptors' court at the Air Canada Centre yesterday afternoon. They had the court at 1:30 p.m. EST when they walked into the gym to find Jack putting the finishing touches on an extra 30 minutes of work.

The encounter served a double purpose. Jack is finally in a groove and wants to keep things rolling, and it also gave him a chance to greet his old friends.

Jack is known as one of the most personable players in the NBA; his cellphone is crammed with numbers of friends from around the league. He admits there might be some extra chatter on the floor tonight, but that to a man his old teammates were happy he got his money even if it meant Jack was leaving them because the Pacers couldn't afford to match the Raptors' offer without going over the luxury-tax threshold.

Pacers president Larry Bird called to tell him so, an experience that Jack still smiles about in the retelling.

As his game rounds into shape, the Raptors are hopeful that the rest of Jack's attributes will begin paying off as well. He's a leader by nature and enthusiastic about playing the roll of Robin to Bosh's Batman in the Raptors' dressing room. But it's easier to do that when you're playing to your own standards.

He's not there yet, but the Raptors believe he's getting closer. Bit by bit, Jack is confident he'll earn his keep.



Notes / The Toronto Raptors expect to have Marco Belinelli (groin) and Antoine Wright (ankle) available for the game tonight against the Indiana Pacers. Both practised yesterday. ... The Pacers are optimistic forward Mike Dunleavy will soon return to their lineup after missing nearly a full year. ... Former Raptor T.J. Ford is starting for the Pacers at point guard. Roy Hibbert, the second-year player out of Georgetown who Toronto drafted 17th overall in 2008 and sent to Indiana with Ford to land Jermaine O'Neal, is starting as well. He's averaging 11.5 points and 8.3 rebounds a game, along with 2.1 blocks.

Next Tonight, Indiana Pacers at ACC in Toronto, 7 p.m. (EST)

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Michael Grange

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Added: November 24, 2009


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