If in fact T.J. Ford and Jarrett Jack comprise the least-watchable backcourt in the NBA (personally, I’d go with Mike James and DeShawn Stevenson, but that’s beside the point), it’s because they’re pretty much the same player. Jack is stronger, Ford is faster, but otherwise they’re both shoot-first point guards who happened to land in the ideal situation to suit their games — and aggravate their teammates.
Since Jim O’Brien‘s system pretty much allows Ford and Jack to, well, jack shots freely, and because they’re fighting for the long-term starting PG job, you knew something bad was around the corner, right?
In a situation that Mike Wells of the Indianaplis Star later said has been brewing for a while, Jack snapped on Ford during Friday’s loss to the Mavs, after three straight possessions had gone by and Ford shot the ball each time. From Wells’ blog (and thanks to Smack reader “dagwaller” for tipping me to this story):
Starting guards T.J. Ford and Jarrett Jack had to be separated during a timeout in the middle of the third quarter of Friday’s loss to Dallas.
The two (started) arguing on the court and brought it to the huddle. Stephen Graham, Josh McRoberts and assistant coach Jay DeFruscio all went over to try and calm Jack down. Jack was sent to the locker room by coach Jim O’Brien. Ford was also taken out, but he checked back in with 8:54 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“We had a situation where Jarrett and T.J. had a dispute on the court,” O’Brien said. “I subbed for them and didn’t want to carry it over. I asked Jarrett to take the rest of the night off. That was my decision.”
A simple case of frustration boiling over from one ball-hog to another? Maybe. But I think Jack might have ulterior motives.
Look at T.J.’s history in these situations: In Milwaukee he battled Mo Williams for minutes, eventually getting traded before Mo was re-signed to a huge contract. In Toronto he fought with Jose Calderon for the starting spot … eventually getting traded before Jose was re-signed to a huge contract. Now it’s happening again in Indiana, and guess who’s coming up for free agency this summer? The same guy who could be trying to force Pacers’ management to trade somebody.
If the Ford/Jack situation doesn’t get resolved — for what it’s worth, both players stuck to the “It’s all behind us now” script when asked about it the next day — who would you keep? Ford is due $8.5 million next season, with a player-option ($8.5M) for the following year. Jack will be a restricted free agent this year, with a $2.8 million qualifying offer. Ford is averaging 15.1 points on 44 percent shooting from the field, 5.2 assists and 2.5 turnovers in 30 minutes a night. Jack is putting up 12.9 points on 45 percent shooting, 3.7 assists and 2.2 turnovers in 32 minutes.
O’Brien seems to have already made his choice. The night after Jack instigated the timeout incident and had his own little Kyle-Lee Watson moment (I can just see him smashing a folding chair against a locker after getting the boot), he was in the starting lineup, dropping 31 points on the Bobcats in 32 minutes, while Ford came off the bench and only took four shots in 21 minutes.
“We had lost five in a row,” O’Brien told the Indianapolis Star. “T.J. and I both talked, and he’s not playing at the top of his game. I decided to shake things up to see if we can get a jolt.”