LAS VEGAS – Derrick Jones Jr. will not play Tuesday when the Heat face Utah in their third game in the Las Vegas summer league, but the Heat have seen all they need from this jumping-jack forward.
Jones sprained his ankle in Sunday’s loss to the Hornets. Although the Heat list him as day-to-day, it’s doubtful Jones will play again in Las Vegas. Miami already has seen Jones’ game and confidence progress, something he says that has come because of demands that are non-negotiable with the Heat.
“I work harder than I did ever in my life when I’m with this team,” Jones said after the Heat’s practice Monday on the UNLV campus, where he spent one year of college. “They hold you to a higher standard. It’s like everybody in the organization is working hard so you don’t want to be that one guy that’s singled out – ‘He’s just in here BS-ing it and going half-ass.’
“I want to be that one that they say ‘Yeah, he’s in here every day, he’s working hard, he wants to be better.’ That’s the player I planned on being. That’s the player I am now.”
But Jones, 21, blames himself. He joined the Phoenix Suns at 19 after going undrafted out of UNLV. He played in just 36 games with the Suns over about 1 ½ years before being waived. He signed to a two-way contract with the Heat on Dec. 31.
During his time with Suns, Jones was assigned or recalled from their G League team 23 times.
“I should have held myself (with more) accountability when I was in Phoenix.” Jones said. “But I was a young kid, fresh out of college. I just had turned 19 years old. It’s something that I should have been doing. I’m doing it now.
“I realized I had to work harder. I feel like I’m one of the hardest working players on the team. I’m going to keep it going until whenever my day is done. I want to be able to feel like I worked my tail off every day, never took any days off.”
The Heat saw that commitment and rewarded Jones with a two-year standard contract he signed less than two weeks ago.
“This summer he really took it upon himself to get in the gym and work and grind,” Heat summer league coach Eric Glass said. “He became obsessed with the game. He just dominated every game he was in whether it was on the offensive boards, on the defensive end, his leadership, his attacking, he was on a different level than most of the other guys on the court and were really happy to see that.”
Jones averaged 21.3 points on 22-of-42 shooting in the three summer league games in Sacramento last week. He added 22 rebounds, six steals and four blocks.
Glass said Bam Adebayo will return for Tuesday’s 4:30 p..m. game after getting a break on Sunday. Adebayo said he played the “UD” role, referring to veteran Udonis Haslem who has been a leader and mentor in the Heat locker room for several years.
“They wanted me to be the UD of the team,” Adebayo said. “UD sits over there to be vocal and be loud, just help everybody out when they come off the court.”