Jack’s emergence keeping Hornets competitive

Embarrassed as Jarrett Jack was by his recent drunken driving

arrest, he won’t deny that it might have played a role in his

recent resurgence on the court for the New Orleans Hornets.

”It was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever

dealt with,” Jack said. ”It kind of made me refocus myself.”

Jack has averaged 16 points in the nine games since All-Star

weekend, when his arrest occurred in the Atlanta area, and he has

thrived in two starts since Chris Paul went out with a mild

concussion last Sunday.

Jack scored 23 points in New Orleans’ closely contested loss at

Chicago on Monday. On Wednesday night, he capped a 21-pount outing

by baiting Jason Kidd into a foul on a 3-point attempt with 8.4

seconds left, then hit all three free throws to lift the Hornets to

a 93-92 comeback win.

”At the end of the day, I just needed to focus on my business,

my work and that’s coming in here and being a professional on and

off the court,” Jack said. ”I think I had a more concentrated

approach on everything.”

Jack has been a starter before with his three previous teams –

Portland, Indiana and Toronto – and the Hornets hoped since

acquiring him from the Raptors in November that he could be counted

on should Paul be hampered by injury or simply need some rest in a

close game.

Lately, they haven’t been disappointed, even if the 6-foot-3

Jack, in contrast to Paul, is more of a shooter than a passer.

”Jarrett’s mentality for the most part is he sees that rim,

which isn’t a bad thing,” Williams said. ”I think he got rubbed

the wrong way when he first came into the league because he’s not a

pass-first guy. It’s not that he couldn’t pass, but he could shoot

the ball and he might as well take advantage of it with his size.

… The basket is always open, so he always looks to pass to the


Jack’s importance to the Hornets came into focus when Paul was

hurt in the third quarter of the Hornets’ victory at Cleveland. The

Hornets were losing 61-60 at the time. Jack took over and finished

with 14 points as the Hornets pulled away, 96-81.

”I just try to be aggressive,” Jack said. ”Early on, most

teams are a little lax in their defensive coverage. I just try to

make them pay, hopefully get into a rhythm and then once they start

keying on me, then I can find other people as well.”

Now in his sixth NBA season out of Georgia Tech, Jack hopes to

put together one of the best stretches of basketball in his career

and appear in the playoffs for the first time in his career.

”I’m one of the few guys that hasn’t played in the playoffs and

that’s all I think about every single day,” Jack said. ”Just to

get into postseason play as a professional would be a dream come

true in my eyes.

”I know a lot of people point at me right now because Chris is

down. I’m logging a lot of minutes and just trying to right the

ship until he’s back, which is hopefully Saturday.”

Paul practiced on Thursday for the first time since his

concussion. He has not yet been cleared to play in games, but that

could happen as early as Friday, when Paul’s next neurological test

is scheduled. New Orleans (38-29), which entered Thursday’s games

holding the seventh playoff seed in the Western Conference, hosts

Sacramento on Saturday night.

In the meantime, Jack has risen to the occasion and his

teammates have recognized it. Forward Carl Landry was among several

teammates to swarm him in celebration after Wednesday night’s

victory over Dallas.

”I was proud of him,” Landry said. ”He’s come a long way in

his NBA career just to be ready like he was and to come through in

the clutch when we really needed him – not only last night.”

Jack said he expects to keep getting better, even after he goes

back to regular role as Paul’s backup.

”I just try to take advantage of the time I’m given,” Jack

said. ”I’m not trying to sound cliche … but if I’m given 5, 10,

15 minutes, whatever I get, I try to go out there and play as hard

as I can.”