Jarrett Jack won a tight position battle to earn the starting point guard spot for the Portland Trail Blazers at the beginning of the season. He lost the job three games into the campaign, but now he’s relishing his new role.
After coming off the bench to lead the Blazers to their first win, Jack looks to continue his strong play as a reserve Friday when the Blazers host the Memphis Grizzlies.
Jack won the starting point guard spot over Steve Blake, a former Blazer who signed with Portland as a free agent after splitting last season between Milwaukee and Denver. Jack, though, struggled in his first three games, scoring seven total points while going 3-for-15 from the field as Portland (1-3) dropped all three games on a season-opening road trip.
Relegated to the bench on Wednesday, Jack scored a team high-tying 20 points on 5-for-9 shooting in 25 minutes to help the Blazers to a 93-90 victory over New Orleans in their home opener. Meanwhile, Blake had nine assists in his first start—a season high for any Portland player.
“I just try to embrace my role,” said Jack, who started all 79 games he played in 2006-07. “(Coach Nate McMillan) wants me to be more aggressive, so I came out with a sense of urgency.”
After totaling 14 points in a loss at Houston on Saturday, the Portland bench had 31 on Wednesday.
“We really got that spark off the bench that we were looking for from Jack tonight,” McMillan said.
Jack and the Blazers will look to remain perfect at home while facing a Grizzlies team that won its first game of the season on the road after back-to-back defeats in Memphis.
Rudy Gay had 25 points and 10 rebounds and was one of three Memphis players to record a double-double in Wednesday’s 105-98 win at Seattle. It was the first NBA victory for Grizzlies coach Marc Iavaroni, an assistant with Phoenix the last five seasons.
“I did not want to go into another town with zero victories,” Iavaroni said. “And I think the guys felt that way.”
Darko Milicic and Pau Gasol also reached double figures in points and rebounds, but Gasol—the team’s leading scorer with 20.8 points per game last season—delivered a shaky performance, shooting just 2-for-9 from the field. Through three games, Gasol is averaging 17.0 points, 2.3 assists and 0.7 blocked shots while shooting 45.7 percent from the field—all career lows for the seventh-year forward from Spain.
Gasol has averaged 21.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots in six games against Portland over the last two seasons.
The Grizzlies, who were a league-worst 8-33 on the road in 2006-07, haven’t won their first two road games in a season since the team was based in Vancouver in 2000-01.
However, the road team won all four games between Memphis and Portland last season. The Grizzlies won their two games at the Rose Garden by a combined five points, and have taken five of their last six contests there.