It took less than a minute on Saturday for Derrick Jones Jr. to take flight.
On the second play of the Heat’s “Red, White and Pink” scrimmage on Florida Atlantic’s campus — which closed out the Heat’s six-day preseason camp and raised money for cancer care and research at Miami Cancer Institute — Dwyane Wade sent a lob to the rim, which Jones Jr. grabbed with full force before slamming it through the hoop with full force.
It was just the beginning.
While the scores didn’t matter as the Heat flipped and flopped rosters each quarter, one thing became inherently noticeable Saturday’s “Red White and Pink” scrimmage that closed out preseason camp: The Heat planned to give Jones Jr., nicknamed “Airplane Mode,” as many opportunities as it can to see what they have in the 21-year-old forward after seeing him in spurts last season.
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In short: There’s a lot of promise.
After mixed results early, Jones Jr. showcased in the second quarter what he can do at his best. Playing primarily at power forward with Wade and Goran Dragic in the backcourt, Jones Jr. made five of six shots in that frame for 11 points and grabbed a pair of rebounds while playing the full 10-minute period.
“It’s hard not to notice Derrick Jones,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s been like that all week, where he’s had plays of the day.”
It’s an encouraging sign for the coaching staff, which looks poised to give Jones Jr. playing time this year. He was on a two-way contract for the 2017-18 season and played in 14 games for Miami last year with eight starts. In 212 minutes on the court last year, Jones Jr. made 38.8 percent of his shots (19 for 49) and recorded 34 rebounds.
Spoelstra said Jones Jr. has impressed throughout camp.
“He’s been able to sustain,” Spoelstra said. “That’s the most important thing.”
Of course, the dunks from Wade are nice too.
“It’s very fun,” Jones Jr. said. “That’s something he specializes in. I mean, he’s a great passer. ... I’m learning a whole lot from him and trying to soak in everything that I can.”
Some other notables from Saturday:
▪ Josh Richardson opened scoring on Saturday with a quick layup. He left the scrimmage in the third quarter with a minor left thigh contusion. Richardson said he will be fine for the preseason.
▪ Justise Winslow took regular turns at point guard and could have increased ball-handling opportunities this season. He was handed a technical foul late in the third period.
▪ Duncan Robinson, on a two-way contract, showed off his three-point shooting prowess. “I want him to launch,” Spoelstra said. “The first three days of camp, he was shot-faking those. ... He’s unselfish. He’ll move the ball. That’s important, but for him, I want him always to be live on his catch.”
▪ Wade walked out to the court about 15 minutes into the game to a roaring applause. The cheers continued into the game on the opening lob to Jones Jr. and when he sank the first 3-point shot of the scrimmage minutes later.
▪ Hassan Whiteside looked fluid in the paint during all four quarters, showing mobility and a smoothness that was lacking last season partly due to the fact that he dealt with a knee injury throughout the season.
▪ Guard Wayne Ellington did not participate in the scrimmage while dealing with left ankle soreness. James Johnson and Dion Waiters also did not participate, as expected.
“It’s a culmination of a great week,” Spoelstra said. “It really was a lot of fun up here. A lot of work.”
Now, the real work begins. The Heat starts its six-game preseason slate on Sunday on the road against the San Antonio Spurs. Tipoff from the AT&T Center is set for 5 p.m.