Derrick Jones Jr. knows the reality of today’s NBA.
Being a good defender, having freakish leaping ability and athleticism simply isn’t enough to warrant having a job.
“You have to be able to shoot in this league or you ain't going to stick. Simple as that,” the 6-7, 200-pound, 21-year-old swingman said after the Miami Heat’s 79-68 loss to the Warriors on Monday night in its summer league opener.
“I have to develop a jump shot at a young NBA age and I'm doing that right now.”
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The NBA’s runner-up in the 2017 slam dunk contest still has a long way to go in proving he can make open jump shots consistently, but at least Monday night’s 24-point, 11-rebound performance was an encouraging sign things could be headed in the right direction.
In shooting 7 of 14 from the field, Jones made four of the five three-pointers he took and showed a soft shooting touch that wasn't seen much during his first two seasons in the league.
Last season, in his 14 games for the Heat which included eight starts, Jones was only 3 of 16 on three-point shots. He shot 38.8 percent from the field overall. That’s not good enough to be an NBA player.
But the Heat’s staff, which loves Jones' athleticism and defense and believes those elements are certainly worthy of a spot on the 15-man roster, has been working tirelessly with him to improve that shot.
“We tweaked a few things,” Jones said of what he and Heat assistant Chris Quinn and shooting coach Rob Fodor have worked on. “It's just mostly getting shots up, putting the reps in and just time in the gym. We log in the time, and I don't plan on logging out until I reach my goal.
“There's no specific number for me. I just go in there until I feel like my jump shot feels right. When it feels right I try to repeat that over and over and over again. Once it feels like second nature that's when I feel like my day is semi-complete. Maybe we go back later on that day so my jump shot can feel perfect.”
Heat summer league coach Eric Glass said the biggest difference he sees in Jones is confidence.
“Even if he didn’t make them tonight his confidence is much better because of the work he’s putting in,” he said. “He’s put in a lot of hours. He’s seeing the ball go through the net in the practice gym. It’s a little bit different in a game, too. This will help him, but he’s got sweat equity and he’s getting confidence from that.”
Now, the goal is to develop consistency. Jones, who said he has added some muscle to his slender frame since the end of the season, believes it will come with time.
“My conditioning is a lot better,” he said. “Getting to the lane I'm not getting knocked off my path like I was. My game has changed since I got here.”
▪ The Heat, which plays the second of three games in Sacramento on Tuesday night at 9 against the Lakers, has three players who were with the team last season on the summer league roster.
Point guard Derrick Walton Jr., who was on a two-way contract last season and was given a qualifying offer for this coming season, was a ghastly 1 of 12 from the field Monday. He finished with five points, five rebounds, five assists and three turnovers.
Center Bam Adebayo, the team’s 2017 first-round pick, had a rough shooting night too. He finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds, but was only 3 of 13 from the field. He also was called for seven fouls (players in Summer League are allowed up to 10).
“He saw different coverages today,” Glass said. “I don’t think he saw too many different coverages last summer. They switched out on him. They were pressuring him full court. So all these things he experiences, the more he handles will be good for him moving forward.
“If he’s attacking the rim we’re happy. Those shots will fall eventually. He’s too good a player he works too hard. But if he’s putting pressure on the rim we're happy.”
▪ Heat team president Pat Riley watched Monday's summer league opener and is expected to be back for Tuesday's game. Riley, 73, will then rejoin the team when it continues summer league play in Las Vegas.
▪ Heat shooting guard Tyler Johnson, a Bay area native, watched Monday's game near the Heat bench.