The Miami Heat signed dynamic, 6-7 forward Derrick Jones Jr., a former slam-dunk contest runner-up, to a two-way contract on Sunday and waived guard Matt Williams Jr.
Jones will report to the Heat instead of Miami’s G League affiliate in South Dakota, meaning the clock will begin ticking on his 23 allowable NBA days this season.
Jones, a 20-year old out of Chester, Pennsylvania, played 38 games for the Phoenix Suns over the past two seasons including six this year before being cut on Dec. 7. He averaged 4.7 points and 2.2 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field. He also went 3 for 13 from three-point range. In the G League, Jones averaged 14.5 points and 5.6 rebounds in 19 games (17 starts) during the 2016-17 season.
Last year, Jones showed off his athleticism in the NBA All-Star Game’s Slam Dunk competition, where he finished second to Pacers’ wing Glenn Robinson III.
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Jones averaged 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in one season at UNLV but was ruled ineligible for his final three games because of an issue with his high school ACT. He turned pro and went undrafted in June 2016.
With Williams gone, Jones and guard Derrick Walton Jr. are the Heat’s two players with two-way contracts.
Williams, who played in three games this season for the Heat (averaging 1.7 points per game) and spent 14 of his 45 days at the NBA level, is free to sign another two-way deal with any other team.
So how did the Heat turn things around drastically from one half to the next in Saturday night’s dramatic 117-111 comeback win over the Orlando Magic?
A little self-motivation at halftime got things started.
Instead of any midgame speeches, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he let the players speak among each other and work out what needed to be corrected.
“At this point in the season, there is not much we have to drill that’s new,” Spoelstra said. “Probably you can say that for every team. You know your system at this point, it’s a matter of doing it in competition, and when somebody’s coming at you and now you’re dealing with officials, you’re dealing with the team’s scoring. You’re dealing with things not necessarily going your way. So what! Do your job and that’s what halftime was all about. The guys knew exactly what all the things were. I didn’t have to list anything. At that point, they were able to hold themselves accountable and take ownership of it.”
The Heat, which found itself in a track meet up and down the court with the Magic in a first half in which it allowed 24 fast-break points, put a halt to it in the second half and allowed only two more the rest of the game.
Trailing by 18 early in the third quarter, the Heat outscored Orlando 67-45 in the second half after allowing 66 first-half points on 67.5 percent shooting.
Their efforts also translated in the paint, as well, where Miami turned a 36-24 first-half disadvantage into a 30-14 edge in the second half.
“That was as ugly as it can get in the first half,” Spoelstra said. “Again, it started looking like it was going in the same direction as last night (Friday’s 111-87 loss to the Nets). Defensively, it was just as poor as we can be. You do have to credit their team speed. They just fly at you. It looked like a misprint in the first half, 24 in transition. But our guys gathered themselves.
“Basically, the halftime was them. I just stepped back and let them talk and figure it out, much different disposition in the second half. I was speechless last night after that game. I feel like that a little bit right now. It was a tale clearly of two halves competitively.”
Team captain Udonis Haslem agreed that it was up to the players themselves to turn things around.
“The game is always going to be played between the lines with the players,” Haslem said. “There’s only so much coaches can do. Coaches can’t control the effort area, just getting back in transition is two things, it’s just effort and communication.”