The ‘Post-Jarrett Jack Era’ Not Off to a Hot Start

The hearts of Nets fans dropped when Brooklyn Nets starting point guard, Jarrett Jack, fell to the hardwood grabbing his knee as he grimaced in agony during Saturday nights game against the Celtics. When I say dropped, I mean their hearts dropped from the outer layer of the earth’s core to the inner layer. It’d already plummeted far too much in a year where being bad doesn’t even earn you a lottery pick. To continue the unnecessary geology analogy, this team didn’t even start the season with their hearts anywhere near the earth’s crust.

Jarrett Jack’s torn ACL will end his season and likely his tenure with the Nets as he approaches free agency this summer. The unfortunate injury puts the already near-depth-less Brooklyn Nets roster in a more difficult situation as they hope to salvage any glimmer of productivity this season. Or as Vince Vaughn’s character from Wedding Crashers would put it, Jack’s injury “leaves (the Nets) in the trenches while they are taking grenades.”

In the team’s first game since the injury, Coach Lionel Hollins went with Shane Larkin, as expected, to get the first shot at replacing Jack. The third-year player out of the University of Miami was rather underwhelming in his starting debut in Brooklyn, scoring just four points to be paired with two assists and two rebounds in 27 minutes. He couldn’t get many open looks on the night in his new role as the Celtics absorbed any offensive production coming from the Nets’ guards, who shot a combined 26 percent from the field.

Shane Larkin has typically been a spark plug off the bench who thrives in transition, and his struggle to get anything going when the game slows down may be a recurring issue as he isn’t the greatest playmaker for his teammates.

Veteran journeyman Donald Sloan also found himself with more playing more in Jack’s absence. While he didn’t necessarily play well, he contributed 21 minutes and in some ways played better than Larkin. Sloan had five points, four rebounds, three assists, and a steal in six less minutes than Larkin. Larkin is expected to continue to start for the foreseeable future but Sloan’s play is worth taking note of.

As the Nets’ point guards struggled to get their teammates going Joe Johnson found himself thrust into a more involved role, similar to when he had first joined the Nets. He had become less involved in the past year and a half, since he battling plantar fasciitis, but when his team needed him most he stepped up. Johnson made up for Jack’s scoring with 21 points but also his passing by leading the team with four assists. Johnson just may be the best passer on the Nets roster right now.

Now it’s important to remember that we are just a game into the ‘Shane Larkin Era’ and one game does not represent how the Nets’ offense changes with Jarrett Jack out for the season. But Larkin has never been seen as a player in the mold of the traditional pass-first point guard. He didn’t average more than four assists in either month he started for the Knicks last year.

The Nets have said they want to give Larkin and Sloan the chance to take hold of the minutes left behind by the injured Jack instead of making a trade or sign a free agent. Larkin must learn to slow the game down and work pick and rolls with the team’s big men if he wants any success. It didn’t help his cause that his teammates weren’t hitting shots aside from Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young, who were forced to create their own looks against the Celtics. Its Larkin’s job to lose, for now, as he has the youth and speed but Sloan will be lurking right behind him. Until Larkin or Sloan gain hold of the position, Joe Johnson will continue to be asked to make more plays for his teammates.

The Jack injury adds to the anguish felt by Nets fan who already lost their window into the future, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, for multiple months. One thing is clear, this season is spiraling out of control.