With a rash of injuries and issues with reserve guards, the Dallas Mavericks have little choice but to give Jones significant minutes for really the first time in his NBA career. The former first-round pick in his second season out of South Florida responded relatively well in Wednesday’s win over the Nuggets, when Jones played a career-high 31 minutes with Jason Terry and Rodrigue Beaubois missing the game and Delonte West suffering a gruesome finger injury during the second quarter.
Terry, who sat out due to a sore quad, won’t play Friday because of personal reasons. Beaubois will be away from the team for an indefinite period of time after the sudden passing of his father. West will be sidelined for an extended period after fracturing and dislocating his right ring finger.
That leaves Jones, best known for the large tattoo of the Larry O'Brien Trophy on his neck, as the lone healthy, available reserve guard. He’ll get plenty of playing time with the Mavs determined not to run up the minutes for geezer guards Jason Kidd and Vince Carter.
“We’re going to need him,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s worked hard and this gets his feet wet for Friday.”
While Jones missed all six of his shots from the floor against the Nuggets, the Mavs would be pleased if he keeps performing like he did in the lopsided win. He had six assists, four rebounds and only one turnover, consistently playing aggressively but under control.
The Mavs want to limit Kidd’s minutes to the mid-20s, so Jones is likely to get the majority of his playing time at point guard. He played primarily shooting guard in college, but Jones has run the point during his stints with the D-League Texas Legends and in the minimal practice time he's had with the Mavs this season.
“It’s probably in many ways a more natural position for him than 2, because he’s very good with the ball,” Carlisle said. “He sees things, has a good feel for passing and he causes problems with his penetration. This is an opportunity for him.”
Added Jones, who had logged only 195 NBA minutes in his career before Wednesday: “I think I have a lot to learn at both postions, 1 and 2, so I’m real humble when it comes to that, real open-minded when it comes to learning. But I’m pretty comfortable playing the 1.”
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Jones understands that his primary job as a point guard is to keep the ball moving. He is a physical guard who is at his best attacking off the dribble, but he’s likely to struggle to score as long as opponents don’t have to respect his jumper.
“He’s a great driver, slasher,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “He can finish in the paint and once in a while, he’s going to make a shot. Defensively, he’s a workhorse. He’s a big guy, he can move, he can be active. He’s definitely going to get some opportunities here and he’s going to make the best out of them like he did tonight.”