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Fran Blinebury

Despite his reputation for being passive on the court, Perry Jones has impressed the Thunder.
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Thunder draft pick Jones doing best to shake low-motor rap

Posted Jul 13 2012 1:06PM

ORLANDO -- It figured that Perry Jones would eventually find his way onto the summer league shelf. After all, conventional wisdom had said he had a poor motor and maybe he was up on a lift and in need of an oil change.

However, it was a tweak to his left ankle and not anything to do with the level of Jones' play that put him on the bench. But not before the 6-foot-11 forward showed that he just might be a gift that dropped into the lap of the Thunder when he fell all the way to No. 28 on draft night.

"It's like a song in my head, I've heard it so much," Jones said of the talk about his motor. "It's in my vocabulary now."

The words that have been rolling off the tongues of teammates and employers in Oklahoma City have been nothing but good.

"He's a guy that has quickness at his size and fits in with his length and versatility," said Thunder general manager Sam Presti. "And what we've seen at this point is someone who has been excellent in terms of coming in and showing that he is a willing and active learner."

In the only full game that he played at the AirTran Orlando Pro Summer League, Jones collected 16 points and eight rebounds in 29 minutes and continued to do all of the aggressive things that he'd already shown the Thunder in workouts.

"Freak athlete," said teammates Reggie Jackson. "Freak competitor.

"That whole talk about his motor, I don't know who started that but I believe that was probably a bad rumor. The guy loves to get out there, he loves playing hard. He just tries to get it done, do whatever he can."

It was a rap put on Jones during the last college season when he didn't lift his Baylor team on his shoulders and establish himself as the go-to offensive force game in and game out.

"I sacrificed a lot in college, gave up a lot of things such as scoring because I thought I had other people on my team that can score," he said. "I realize now, it doesn't matter who I'm playing with. I should always be able to do what I can do and that's score.

"What I want to do now is show that I'm not the person they think I am. Show I have a motor. Show that I can get out there in workouts and just bring all the energy I can to the floor."

Jones showed showed a full bag of tricks in his game here: a deep range on his shot, an ability to knock down step-back jumpers, consistently running the floor hard and working diligently on defense.

"All the things that we loved about his game when we were scouting him," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "I like his athleticism, his ability to cover ground on both ends of the floor and his decision-making. He really does seem to be thinking the right things in the game.

"Those are a lot of the reasons we were so excited when we saw his name on the board when it got around to our turn. When you look at his size and his talent, he fits what we like to do."

"I truly believe he's going to be a special kid," said assistant coach Mark Bryant, who's been the acting summer league head coach. "He's kind of like, I'm not saying he's like Lamar Odom yet, but he could be that type of player."

Jones would not even go near that comparison. Neither is Presti ready to pat himself on the back for out-thinking all of the other GMs and teams that chose to pass on Jones due to the talk about his passive demeanor. There have, of course, been plenty of stars who streaked like comets and disappear over the horizon in the summer league.

"Every draft is different and driven by the targets of all of the different teams," Presti said. "Our job is to be prepared for all of the scenarios that might present themselves.

"(Jones) was the next guy on the board for us and we felt comfortable that he was the right guy for us at 28. He's a guy we had interest in throughout the year. As far what's said, you factor everything in, but we try to remove emotion from the draft.

"All you're trying to in the draft is shift the odds a little in your favor. There comes a time when you just have to trust in your evaluation process and make a decision. I'm not saying there's a science behind it."

Even wearing a slipper and a slight limp, Jones is grinning at the notion of having fallen from grace on the draft board.

"Sitting on that bench before the first game and even running up and down the court playing, the whole idea that I'm here hasn't sunk in yet," he said. "But I'll tell you, I think I'm in the perfect place."

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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