With Tim Hardaway Jr. indefinitely sidelined, Jarrett Jack has made the most of his time with the New York Knicks.
The New York Knicks are in the midst of a resurgence. A small one, but a resurgence nonetheless. At 14-13, the Knicks currently sit tied with three other teams for the sixth seed. The sky is the limit at this point, which makes the injury to Tim Hardaway Jr. all the more painful.
Hardaway returned to the Knicks for a second stint of duty this past offseason on a four-year, $71 million contract. While drawing initial criticism, solid play on the part of Hardaway has revealed how capable this team is of success. At 17.8 PPG, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.3 assists, the Michigan alum has played the perfect Robin to Kristaps Porzingis’ Batman.
However, Hardaway has spent the entire season batting ankle and leg ailments and, as a result, has not played since the team’s 115-86 victory against the Miami Heat back on Nov. 29. Just over a week ago, it was revealed that Hardaway is suffering from a stress injury in his lower left leg. The severity of the injury is unclear. If it is only a stress reaction, then we could potentially see Hardaway back on the floor in around a week. If it is a stress fracture, Hardaway could miss a large chunk of time.
In the face of back-to-back losses following Hardaway’s absence, the Knicks have seemingly rallied around their fallen star and performed at a high level. They’ve won their last two and three of their last four. The injury to Hardaway has afforded other players the opportunity to see increased playing time, and there’s one in particular who has floated above the rest.
Jarrett Jack has certainly been a microcosm of the Knicks’ “next man up” mentality and has been instrumental in keeping this ship afloat, making the best of a great opportunity in the process.
Hailing from Fort Washington, MD, Jarrett Jack starred at point guard for four different schools. Following his high school career, Jack went off to Georgia Tech, where he helped lead the Yellow Jackets to the NCAA Finals in 2002. A rise in draft stock persuaded him to forego his senior year of eligibility and the Denver Nuggets opted to select Jack with the 22nd pick in the 2005 NBA Draft.
Despite eventually developing into a solid starter, Jack never found a true home in the NBA. Denver dumped his draft rights in a deal with the Portland Trail Blazers. After three years in Portland, the Blazers shipped him off to the Indiana Pacers. After a year with the Pacers, Jack signed a four-year, $20 million deal with the Toronto Raptors. The following season, he was dealt to the New Orleans Hornets. Two years later, Jack found himself playing for the Golden State Warriors by way of a three-team trade. Stints with Cleveland Cavaliers, Brooklyn Nets, and New Orleans Pelicans followed before Jack finally ended up with the Knicks in September of 2017.
Jack’s career is certainly on its last leg, as the journeyman point guard has been dealing with multiple knee injuries dating back all the way to 2015. During his time with the Nets, Jack tore his ACL and suffered a small tear in his meniscus. That, as well as another meniscus injury, essentially robbed him of the 2016-17 season. Joining the Knicks was seen as the 34-year-old’s final chance to re-establish himself as a serviceable bench player and the absence of Hardaway has created the perfect opportunity for him to do so.
Hardaway going down has not necessarily impacted the volume of Jack’s playing time, but certainly has improved the quality. With Hardaway out of the lineup, Jack has played a prominent role in this team’s offense, averaging 8.2 points, 6.7 assists, and four rebounds per game. The crown jewel of it all coming in a 19-point performance in a win against one of his former teams, the Atlanta Hawks.
“That’s the nature of the business you may never know what may come your way but you have to be ready for the opportunity that comes your way,” Jack told Stefan Anderson of the New York Daily News. “Look at a person like Ron Baker right now. He hasn’t played in a nice little time and each and every day I see him working, I see him practicing hard. I see him getting extra shots. I see him getting extra sprints when everybody is kind of getting ready to kind of end practice and go about their day. Coach called his name. I’m not sure if coach kind of let him know that he was going to get put in the rotation, but coach called his name and Ron came in and was a tremendous lift for us.”
Jack has made the most of his chance to stay relevant, with the aforementioned performance against the Hawks, as well as two other games where he’s recorded 10 assists. In a Dec. 6 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, Jack came four rebounds shy of a triple-double with 10 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds.
There is no real timetable on Tim Hardaway Jr.’s return, but as long as Jack is able to continue to perform at a high level, then the Knicks pose a real strong threat to bust into the Eastern Conference playoffs in 2018.