SACRAMENTO – Heat summer league coach Eric Glass spoke about how he wanted Derrick Jones Jr. to “see the ball go through the net.”
In other words, gain some confidence in his shot.
Jones is off to a nice start to the summer league.
Jones celebrated his first game after signing a standard two-year contract Saturday by scoring 24 points in the Heat’s 79-68 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday. Jones, who excels defensively and is known for his leaping and rebounding, showed he’s been working on his offensive game by making 7-of-14 shots including all but one of his five 3-pointers.
“We tweaked a few things,” said Jones, who also added 11 rebounds. “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.”
But it was one of his signature shots that drew the loudest reaction from the Golden 1 Center crowd. Late in the game, Jones took a pass from point guard Derrick Walton Jr. around the three-point circle and headed straight to the basket. As the lane parted he went up for a two-handed junk in which his head was above the rim.
“I think it was my first one,” said Jones, who was the runner-up in the NBA’s Slam Dunk contest in 2017 when he played for the Suns.
“I told myself I was going to get at least one.”
The Heat rewarded Jones, 21, after he spent last season splitting time between Miami and Sioux Falls of the G League while on a two-way contract. The deal is for $3 million, with only the first year at $1.4 million guaranteed.
Jones has played 52 NBA games, 20 for the Heat last season and 32 for Phoenix in 2016-17. Last season he averaged 3.1 points and 1.9 rebounds for Miami and played in 29 G League games with Sioux Falls and Northern Arizona, averaging 17.4 points and 7.4 rebounds.
Now Jones can play this summer with the knowledge that he’s part of the Heat’s 15-man roster and without the pressure of having to impress to get back in the league full time.
Still, that does not mean anything will change when it comes to his work habits.
“He’s put in a lot of hours,” Glass said. “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.”
Nobody on the summer league roster has been through Jones’ journey more than Walton and center Bam Adebayo.
“He seems a lot more confident,” Walton said. “He’s been working pretty hard on his shot and being strong enough to take bumps on his drives.”
Said Adebayo: “He’s been working on his game every day, just like everybody else but you could see his just happen in stride. He’s out there making shots and he’s having fun.”
Jones started along with Adebayo, Walton who played last season on a two-way contract, guard Ike Nwamu and forward Duncan Robinson.
Adebayo had 14 points and 14 rebounds. He was 3-of-13 from the floor and 8-of-11 from the line. Adebayo was very active, finishing with seven fouls (players get 10 in summer league) and showed off some of the ball handling skills the Heat have him work on during the summer by helping facilitate offense.
Walton and Nwamu struggled, shooting a combined 3 of 19, including 1 of 13 on threes. Walton missed all but one of his 13 shots from the floor and all nine 3-point attempts.
The Heat face the Lakers at 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Golden 1 Center.