Earl K. Sneed puts his Mavs Spotlight on rookie Dominique Jones, who returned from a D-League stint to help the Mavericks win in Cleveland Sunday night.
CLEVELAND — It wasn’t the way that rookie Dominique Jones envisioned his return to the NBA, but now he hopes to take full advantage of the opportunity that lays in front of him.
Jones admits that he was crushed by the news that Mavericks swingman Caron Butler had suffered a potentially serious knee injury in the first quarter of the Mavericks’ 99-87 loss in Milwaukee Saturday night. After all, Jones admires Butler, who serves as one of the first-year pro’s mentors on the team.
Jones, however, didn’t have much time to think about what would happen next. The next thing he knew he was on a plane from Dallas to Cleveland to join up with the Mavericks before Sunday’s game with the Cavaliers.
But the Mavericks’ first-round draft acquisition returned to the team a different player, after Jones spent 10 games with the NBA Development League’s Texas Legends who are housed in Frisco, Texas, a neighboring suburb of Dallas.
The former South Florida standout proved to be head and shoulders above the competition with the minor league affiliate, averaging 18.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.6 steals a game in his 10 outings. And under the tutelage of Legends head coach Nancy Lieberman, Jones says he returns a wiser man and a more-refined player.
“Being back is a good thing, definitely,” Jones said. “But I thank the D-League and I’m very fortunate to have it so close in Frisco, because I got to be around all the great people there like Nancy and everybody else there. And I got a chance to play and get my rhythm back.”
Jones also admits that when the Mavericks traded cash considerations to take the No. 25 pick in last June’s draft off the Memphis Grizzlies' hands, he naturally thought he would set the league on fire.
But the rookie quickly found himself in a guard-heavy Mavericks’ rotation. And the confident young man that has a tattoo of the NBA logo on his left calf to remind him of his All-Star aspirations was shipped to the Legends on Nov. 30 after playing limited time in nine games for the Mavs prior to the move.
“When you’re up here (in the NBA) and go down, it’s a humbling experience,” Jones explained. “Especially me, because I’ve got NBA on my leg and all kinds of stuff like that. So, it kind of humbles you and makes you come up here and work your hardest. No matter what you’re doing, just come up here and be fortunate that you’re able to be on the court. And that’s how I look at it.”
Jones immediately showed his growth as a player Sunday evening in Cleveland, scoring nine points, snatching down five rebounds and dishing out three assists in his return. The first-year budding star also played a season-high 21 minutes to help the Mavericks snap a three-game skid with a 104-95 road win over the Cavaliers.
“He gave us a big lift,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of Jones’ effort. “He defended well, his penetration was a factor, he found people and he has a way of getting to the free throw line. So, his arrival (Sunday) was timely and it really helped us.”
And now that he’s back where he feels he belongs, Jones hopes to carve his on niche with the Mavericks. He also plans on Sunday being just the start of big games to come.
“Every time I go out there I’m just gonna play, I’m gonna play my heart out,” Jones said. “We’ve got great shooters out there, and all I have to do is just get in the lane or start it off with a drive-and-kick and just be confident and play.”
Note: The Mavericks return to the American Airlines Center Tuesday night to host the Portland Trail Blazers, a squad that the Mavericks beat, 103-98, on Dec. 15. That game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting the American Airlines Center box office, logging on to Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287).
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