By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
INDEPENDENCE: Jarrett Jack has been through this before. When he joined Golden State before last season, the Warriors’ roster was full of young players coming off a 23-win season. With Jack mentoring a promising backcourt, the Warriors flourished into Western Conference semifinalists.
Now Jack is part of a similarly young Cavaliers team that won only 24 games last season. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are gone, replaced with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Yet Jack’s role will remain the same as a veteran, steady hand off the bench and a leader in the locker room.
Whether the Cavs can make that leap to the conference semifinals in a top heavy East still seems unlikely, but Jack likes the nucleus of young talent the Cavs have assembled over the past three years.
“Looking at the makeup of the team, it’s a very, very young team, but I think with a promising future,” Jack said Friday at his introductory news conference. “That’s something I desperately want to be a part of.”
Jack and Earl Clark were introduced Friday as the newest members of the Cavaliers. Of course, they’re only two-thirds of the team’s summer shopping spree. Andrew Bynum was not at the news conference Friday because his contract has yet to be finalized. That is expected to occur next week. In the meantime, Cavs officials aren’t allowed to discuss Bynum, but Jack was happy to do it.
“An anchor in the middle is something every team is desperately in need of,” Jack said. “When healthy, he’s one of the best, if not the best, big men in the game.”
Jack, Clark and Bynum, along with rookies Anthony Bennett and Sergey Karasev, are expected to transform a franchise that has been one of the league’s worst during the past three years.
Jack signed for four years and $25 million, although the final year of the deal is a team option. General Manager Chris Grant believes the Cavs can play Jack, Irving and Waiters together much like the Warriors used Curry, Thompson and Jack simultaneously.
“That’s probably one of the many questions we have with the change in our roster and the players we’ve added,” Grant said. “But when you have smart basketball players that are willing to be unselfish and willing to make plays, it’s easy to put those guys on the court together.”
Jack, who grew up on the same street as Browns cornerback Joe Haden, said he was eager to sign with the Cavs when he learned Mike Brown wanted him. Brown also wanted Clark, the 6-foot-10 forward known for his defense.
The Cavs believe Clark is athletic enough to defend the league’s best wings, which is why he is expected to play primarily small forward.
“Since I’ve been in the NBA, my M.O. is guarding guys like LeBron,” Clark said. “That’s something that comes easy to me. I like the challenge of guarding the best player out there. It’s exciting to me.”
Clark and Brown were together last season with the Los Angeles Lakers, albeit briefly. Brown was fired just five games into the season.
“I know he’s a defensive coach and that’s what he preaches,” Clark said. “I’m excited to be here and excited to go out and play defense.”
Jack left shortly after the news conference Friday to catch a flight to Las Vegas, where he will work out with his new teammates and watch the Cavs’ summer league team. Irving, Waiters, C.J. Miles, Kevin Jones and Tyler Zeller, among others, have been in Vegas for a few days working out together. It was an initiative spearheaded by Irving after his trip to Australia. Jack will join the workouts this weekend.
He is expected to immediately assume a leadership role on this team that has been lacking for years. He doesn’t think it’s difficult to walk into a locker room for the first time and lead.
“The one thing I really learned in this league are there are two types of guys: Guys that love basketball and guys that love the lifestyle,” Jack said. “From what I know of these individuals on my team, I feel we have guys who really love basketball to the core. I think if we use the mentality that we’re going to go out there and put somebody else’s goals above our own, I think that will put us in a great place.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.