As Derrick Jones Jr. sat in front of his locker with his right arm in a sling, he seemed relieved. In fact, the entire Miami Heat team was relieved.
That’s because the 21-year-old wing player suffered just a bruised right shoulder after taking a hard fall on a tip-in attempt with 6:01 remaining in the second quarter of Tuesday’s preseason game against the Charlotte Hornets. Although Jones did not return to the game, the good news came when the Heat announced X-rays returned negative.
“Just relief,” Jones said when asked how he felt. “Obviously the fall hurt. It’s just a bruise. Got X-rayed and they just told me it came back negative, it’s just a bruise. I’m happy.”
Jones, who is known for his leaping ability, hurt his shoulder as he tried to break his fall after jumping over a Hornets defender on a tip-in attempt that ended with him landing awkwardly on his right arm.
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“It was an absolutely crazy fall,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He was probably 14 feet in the air, and for him to crash like that and for it just to be a bruise. All of us are extremely thankful for that. Watching it live, it looked horrifying. But he has a way of falling and he already has a smile on his face. He’s very relieved and it was a heck of a play and attempt to try to get that offensive rebound.”
As of Tuesday night, Jones said there are no plans to get an MRI on his shoulder. But the next step in the recovery process will be discussed once the Heat return to Miami following Tuesday’s game in Charlotte.
The Heat signed Jones to a standard two-year NBA contract this summer that includes a guaranteed $1.5 million salary for this season. Despite a crowded rotation of wing players on the roster, Jones entered the preseason hopeful he would be able to crack the rotation and turn into a consistent contributor this year.
Jones (6-7, 200 pounds) has appeared in 52 regular-season games over his two-year NBA career after going undrafted out of UNLV in 2016. He possesses elite athleticism, with a vertical leap that was once measured at 48 inches. The skill earned him the runner-up spot in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game’s Slam Dunk Contest and the nickname “Airplane Mode.”
The Heat signed Jones to a two-way contract in the middle of last season on Dec. 31 after the Phoenix Suns waived him. When he wasn’t playing in the G League as one of the Sioux Falls Skyforce’s best players, he averaged 3.7 points and 2.4 rebounds in 14 regular-season games (eight starts) with the Heat.
Jones displayed signs of improvement in this year’s summer league by averaging 21.3 points on 51 percent shooting from the field and 41.7 percent shooting from 3-point range in three games as part of the Sacramento circuit before an ankle injury cut his summer league short in Las Vegas.
“It’s the game of basketball,” Jones said. “You get hurt. Injuries happen. Nobody wishes injuries on nobody, but it happens to people. You just got to live with results, man, try to recover as fast as you can.”