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While Pacers Miss Jarrett Jack's Leadership, Raptors Have Relied Upon It For Survival

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The decision to let Jarrett Jack walk away from the heart and soul of the Indiana Pacers locker room this summer was purely financially based. Jack, who had secured the No. 1 starting spot ahead of T.J. Ford by the end of last season, was respected off the court, just as much as on it for the blue and gold. But Indiana couldn't match or afford to keep him in Indianapolis.

Consider it the Raptors' gain and the Pacers' loss.

While Indiana has struggled with leadership, point-guard stability and offensive cohesiveness since Jack's departure (but not entirely due to his absence), Toronto has used Jack as a locker room pillar for keeping its team together and reportidely keeping its biggest star, Chris Bosh, happy enough to squash trade rumors and consider returning this summer instead of fleeing via free agency.

According to the Toronto Star, it was Jack who used well-timed team meeting in December to turn a struggling team into a playoff contender. Three weeks before Christmas, the Raptors were sitting with a .350 record and had just suffered a 31-point loss to the Hawks. Bosh even called his boss to seek a way out. Jack called the four-hour meeting to quell inner-team disputes and bring a broken squad into something more.

"(The meeting) was important," Jack told the Star. "We acknowledged a lot of things. We put the onus on everybody to be accountable and said we can't be a team that makes excuses."

The meeting included a plea from GM Bryan Colangelo to keep disagreements in-house. Colangelo said of the meeting: "I think it was an important day, because we accomplished something. ... I think what it did was it created more of a cohesive group. Rather than dig a deeper hole, it did serve as a turning point."

The meeting worked wonders for the lost team. The Raptors, which are currently riding a four-game winning streak, are now sitting with the Eastern Conference's fifth-best record (25-22) as it heads into a two-game stand with the Pacers, starting with tonight's game in Toronto. The turnaround also led to Bosh saying that he expects to stay with the team, while Colangelo has also stated he has no intentions of trading the big man. Of course, there's still three weeks left before the trading deadline to be sure of that.

It still may not have been worth the price tag to keep Jack, but his presence and leadership at the point guard spot have been desperately missed this season. The leadership void that was lost through him has not been picked up by another player. For the next two games, the Pacers will get a healthy dose of what they're missing from last year.

Here are some links to get you ready for tonight's game.