The Art of ... Splitting Time
In the NBA, a rookie’s journey is never easy. And for Cavs freshman forward Kevin Jones, who’s spent his first year battling on two fronts – in Cleveland and Canton – it’s been even more challenging.
At West Virginia, Jones led arguably the roughest conference in the country in both scoring and rebounding and put up numbers in Morgantown that are eclipsed by only “The Logo” himself. Jones went undrafted in 2012 and signed with the Cavaliers before Summer League.
In his first year in Northeast Ohio, Jones has been burning up I-77. He’s played in 19 games for the Cavaliers, posting modest numbers while trying to work his way into Byron Scott’s rotation. In Canton, however, Jones has been dominant for the first-place Charge – leading the club in scoring (22.4 ppg) and rebounding (12.1 rpg), adding 1.2 assists and 1.3 steals per contest.
Bouncing back and forth between central Stark County and the parent club in Cleveland (which he’s done five times already this season) hasn’t been easy for Jones – although you’d never know if from his demeanor. Jones is one of the most easygoing guys on the team. And the rugged rookie took a minute to explain the art of playing with two teams on two levels for two coaches in two cities.
When you’ve been assigned, is it tough to find a balance between going off and posting big numbers vs. playing within the team concept?
Kevin Jones: It’s not. But that’s always the kind of player I’ve been. I’ve never been the type of guy to go for mine; it just happens through the flow of the game. I know where my shots are going to come from and I know where my points are going to come from. So I don’t try to press anything.
I just go out there and play my game. When you go out there and try to press things that’s when you’re in a hurry and you start missing shots because your mindset isn’t in the right place. So I just go out there and play within the flow.Is that something, however, that you do see from some guys in the D-League?
Jones: Oh yeah, definitely. You definitely see that all the time. If that’s your game – to go out and score and look for your own shots, I say go out there and do that. But if that’s not your game and you’re just doing that just to get moved back up, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.
Just play within yourself.Does the Cavalier coaching staff tell you to work on anything specific when you assigned?
Jones: No, not really. When I get assigned, they always wish me good luck and tell me to just play hard. That’s their main thing: play hard.
So I just always want to go down there and, like I said, play within myself and just play hard and come with the same intensity as if I was getting in a game up here (in Cleveland).Do you ever get discouraged?
Jones: I was a little discouraged, at first. Because I felt like I could definitely contribute at this level. So I was a little discouraged at first.
But then I saw the meaning and the message behind it – they want me to get a good run and get some game experience under me. So if I do get in and get an opportunity up here, I won’t be nervous, I’ll be fine and I’ll fit right in. So I understand the meaning behind it and I’m comfortable with it right now.The Charge’s All-Star big man – Erinze Onuaku --- is an old adversary of yours from the Big East. What’s it like playing alongside him now?
Jones: I had to go against him in college. I played against him twice.
He’s a big individual, but you know what? He’s one of the greatest guys to be around. He’s very funny. And he’s very skilled for his size; he has a nice touch around the basket. And I feel like he can play at this level, too. It’s going to take the right team to come along. But he’s in a great system with a great coach, so I think his time will come along.Is there a lot of continuity between coaching philosophy and terminology between the Charge and Cavaliers?
Jones: There definitely is. (The Charge) run a lot of the same plays we run up here. Sometimes, there are some plays (Coach Alex Jensen) will put in that I don’t know. So sometimes it’ll look like I’m scrambling out there on the court because I’m trying to learn during the game.
It’s tough during the game. But I’ll just come to the side and ask (Jensen) what this play is. But he’s a great coach and he’s doing a great job with this team.Canton just solidified their spot atop the division this weekend and are about to make another playoff push. What are your thoughts on joining them heading into the postseason?
Jones: I haven’t really thought about that, but it would be neat if they were in the playoff push and I could go down there and help them. That’s where I started at (this season) is with those guys. So I’m very close with them.
And that’s another reason I play my hardest down there. It’s not like you’re trying to win it for a bunch of guys you don’t know. It’s guys that you started out playing with. So it’s definitely great when I go down there.How about your thoughts on Canton, in general?
Jones: Canton is great. Their fans are really supportive and they go crazy over their team. It’s just a great atmosphere. The guys are great. I haven’t played a ton in the D-League, but I think it’s very rare for a team to be so unselfish with everyone trying to get to another level.
Everybody’s trying to move up out of the D-League, but everybody plays so unselfishly and together. It’s tough, but you can see that they’re winning because of it. So it’s a great formula.
I think it definitely speaks for the organization and the guys that are around. They drafted a great group of guys and they brought guys down that completely buy into the system.You don’t have to do your rookie duties –the baby, the stroller, the book bag – down there, correct?
Jones: (laughs) Oh no! I’m so thankful for that! I don’t have to bring the book bag or the baby. Nothing! I get to leave everything at my place and just wait until I get back here.So it’s tough being away from the baby for that long?
Jones: She cries a little when I come back. She doesn’t recognize me at first. But it’s OK.Can you make the drive down to Canton with your eyes closed?
Jones: I have that drive down pat!! It takes be about 45-50 minutes at most. So I know that road like the back of my hand.Is it great when you do return to the Cavaliers?
Jones: Yeah, it’s definitely great! Especially after a win. After a win down there, you just come back up and all the guys are asking me how I did and it’s like a big “welcome home” thing.
They’re definitely supportive, and usually in a joking situation. I feel like I’m a little brother of the group – even with some of the guys being younger than me. I’ve accepted it and now I feel right at home.