OAKLAND — One of the first times Jarrett Jack played organized basketball, every player on his team wanted to be in the starting lineup. So his youth coach posed a question.
"He said, 'Who wants to start?'" Jack said. "Obviously, 10 years old, all of us raise our hand. So he said, 'OK, what if I start you guys and 2 seconds into the game I take you all out, and I put those guys who were on the bench and didn't start and I let them play the rest of the game, how many of you still want to start?' And all of us were like, 'Dang.'
"That's kind of the thing I learned early on, starting wasn't the end all be all. You know what I mean? So that's never been the knock or the kick with me."
That lesson has served Jack well coming off the bench for the Golden State Warriors this season. The calm and cool guard has been perhaps the best offseason move by general manager Bob Myers, bringing a winning attitude and swagger to a team that had been searching for a new identity.
Measuring Jack's impact goes beyond his average of 13.2 points and 5.5 assists heading into Friday night's game at Phoenix. Coach Mark Jackson credits the reserve guard for teaching rookies and toughening veterans, and he's adamant that Jack should win the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award for putting the Warriors (43-32) on a path to make the playoffs for only the second time in 19 years.
"You can't put a value on it. The guy has been off the charts," Jackson said. "Jamal Crawford has had a great year. J.R. Smith has had a great year. Jarrett Jack is the Sixth Man of the Year. What he has brought to our basketball team, what he has meant to us, in the locker room and on the floor, closing ball games, making big plays, he's been a steal for us."
Jack arrived in the Bay Area last summer from New Orleans as part of a three-team trade that sent small forward Dorell Wright to Philadelphia, helped the Hornets clear cap space to match a $58 million offer for guard Eric Gordon and gave the Warriors a "glue guy" that Jackson said has been critical to the Warriors' resurgence.
Now the well-traveled Jack, playing for his fifth different team in eight years since leaving Georgia Tech, will be a hot commodity on the free-agent market this summer after giving Golden State a much-needed spark off the bench. He also has allowed sharp-shooting Stephen Curry to play off the ball at times, directing the offense with Curry and Klay Thompson in a three-guard lineup at the end of games.
"That's huge for us," Curry said. "We really can exploit some of the opposing benches."
The heart and hustle Jack often shows might be his most defining characteristic.
After the Warriors whipped the New York Knicks 92-63 at home March 11, most of his team seemed satisfied with one of the best all-around performances of the season. Jack, unhappy going 2 for 7 shooting while playing 27 minutes, instead returned to the court and shot for about an hour.