Champ's 2016 Playoff Blog: "Staying Sharp"

James Jones, the Wine and Gold’s sharpshooting reserve has played in 130 postseason games over the course of his 12-year career – winning a pair of NBA titles among his five straight trips to the NBA Finals.

As the Cavaliers try to make it six straight appearances for both Jones – (and the man who called him “my favorite player of all-time,” LeBron James) – Cavs.com asked the savvy vet to share his thoughts throughout this season’s Playoff run …

As the team has some time off here between rounds, we’ve been watching the NBA Playoffs at home just like everyone else.

Kind of.

For me, I like to examine the game. I don’t really watch the game as a fan; I don’t get caught up in who’s doing what.

I’m looking to see what they’re executing. I’m looking to see their adjustments, their tendencies, what they’re going to, which players are in what action and how many times they explore the second and third options within each set.

I stopped watching as a fan a long time ago. It’s hard to turn off your basketball mind and just watch it and get excited about the athleticism and the skill on the court. I always find myself critiquing, criticizing and evaluating what’s going on.

I wouldn’t say it makes watching the game more fun, but it does make watching the game more efficient.

It’s like chess. Some people say it’s a thinking man’s game; others say it’s boring. But chess lovers love the strategy and the forethought. For me, watching the game from that standpoint is enriching. I enjoy it, I feel like I’m learning something. Instead of just watching TV, I’m digesting the game.

But it’s not like we’re just sitting around watching the Playoffs. We’ve been getting after it pretty good in the gym. This time off is mostly a good thing.

Naturally, nothing is 100 percent positive. You want to keep going and maintain that in-game rhythm. But I’m a proponent of health above all else. It’s a lot easier to find your rhythm than it is to find health at this stage of the season.

We’re all pros, and this time off is perfect for us to sharpen our swords, so to speak, to hone in, lock in on our skills – shooting, passing, fundamentals. And it gives us a chance to work over our defensive and offensive principles so that when the games finally arrive, we’re totally efficient.

I’ll say this, though. We’ll be more than ready to face an opponent by the time this week is over.

You always want to sit back and do work in the lab – strategize, adjust, and then ratchet up to full speed. And hopefully, when you’re done, you’re confident in what you’re doing so you can just go out there and react.

So for us, we’re all competitive. And if you leave us around here too long, we’ll start to beat each other up. So this layoff is just enough time for us to recalibrate, get into attack mode and then come out here on Sunday or Tuesday night and produce.

It was nice to get back-to-back sweeps. I’ve been on the other end of taking it on the chin in a Playoff series.

How a team reacts to getting swept just depends on the team. For some, it motivates them. Some become disheartened.

James Jones

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But hopefully, for us, it just sets the bar for when those teams are playing us now and in the future, they know that it’s gonna be a rough mountain to climb. And for us, that’s something that we want to maintain.

Sweeping a team isn’t easy. You’re talking about the best players in the world in the best league in the world. And every game is decided by just a few key plays. And we made those plays. So sweeping a team, really, is a matter of making key plays in key moments much more so than overwhelming or dominating that team.

And that’s our mindset. We’re happy about the sweeps and the rest. But really, we haven’t done anything.

We came in as the top seed and we’ve won two series, we protected homecourt and got wins on the road. But that’s what we expect of ourselves. Those are just things you’re supposed to do if you’re going to call yourself a contender.

So for us, we’ve been good, we feel we can be better and we know we need to get better. In order to win the title, you just have to continue to grow, get better and adapt to every round.

Again, every game, every series in the Playoffs take on their own lives. If you win one by 20 points, that’s absolutely no indicator of what will happen in future games. Every game is its own beast. And so for us, we have eight wins. And that’s all it is. You need 16 for a Championship.

It’s kind of a paradox in a way: Each playoff game is its own separate entity and, by the same token, each game is a ‘continuation’ of the previous one.

You have adjustments that are (and aren’t) made, cleaning up small details and discovering that a play here or a play there could have changed the entire outcome. It can be a turnover that leads to a three or a long rebound that leads to a layup and the next thing you know, it’s a 10-0 run.

The postseason is so fragile, and whatever you did the day before – win or loss – doesn’t mean anything the next day. Because the next day, you’re facing a motivated opponent who’s made some adjustments and looking to exploit the weaknesses that you might perceive were your strengths in the previous game.

It can be really fragile when you’re on the road, especially for the younger players. But we’ve been very good on the road in the Playoffs over the last couple years.

A big reason is because our players have a chip on their shoulder. And we actually have guys that live for adversity. There’s nothing better for our guys than going into a hostile environment and silencing the crowd and proving someone wrong. We have guys who are extremely talented who’ve been underdogs or underappreciated in some form or fashion.

So there’s that chip that they carry. And when you have that, it’s the fuel that drives you to be special. And when we’re on the road, we’re clear about what we want to do, and we take the challenge. That’s the biggest part of winning on the road. You have to be able to take that challenge for the entire game because sometimes it’s easy to pack it in and play for the next game.

But with this group – even if it’s to a fault – we’ll go down swinging.

Winning on the road is excellent. It’s a shot in the arm when you’re trying to go on a run, especially when you’re trying to string together wins, because the expectation is that you protect your home floor.

So, yes, winning on the road can be really satisfying. But for me, the more I play, the more I enjoy playing at home in front of the fans. Winning on the road, we as a team enjoy it. And I know that, in order to be a Champion, you have to win on the road.

But there’s something special winning at home – in front of your fans, your friends and your families.