Champ's 2016 Playoff Blog: "Coat of Armor"

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 …

It’s good to have Game 1 in the books after the long layoff. There’s no doubt it affected us – mostly positively, but not completely.

I think having that time off is why we were able to come out with so much force and build an 18-point lead and that was all positive.

Whenever you have that much time off, it can go one of two ways: you can come out and struggle early and you can turn it on late or you can turn it on early and kind of fall into a lull. And I think that Monday night, after getting that big lead, we sort of fell into a lull. We gave up some easy baskets, but we were able to make some baskets off offensive rebounds that gave us our momentum back.

But we’re healthy after eight days, and that’s the goal of having that much time off. And I think we made the most of it because, at the end of the day, once the game got tight and we needed to get stops and win, we just looked like the fresher team.

During the regular season, every time you play, you play hard and the next game, you feel 90 percent, you feel sore, you feel tightness, you might need to do something a little extra to get yourself going.

But when you have eight days, you have enough time to work the kinks out and really get whole. And you can feel the difference knowing that, ‘Hey, I woke up this morning and I’m not sore or tight. I woke up this morning springy.’ And to be able to take that feeling into shootaround or a game is a lot different than feeling like you have to get the engine going.

And it’s just important for the older guys.

Our young guys, these guys have played a lot of minutes. And they want to feel great. And they know what that feeling is because they’ve reached it at some point during the past year-and-a-half.

So just having that baseline makes it easier for those guys to think: ‘I feel good and I remember that feeling, that stretch during the season or before the season or during All-Star Break when I really felt fresh. And I’m trying to chase that feeling and keep it.’

And when you have eight days off – four days into that stretch you’re thinking, ‘Let me just maintain this.’ And that’s how you ride that momentum through the rest of the series and the rest of the Playoffs.

Personally, I haven’t been getting steady minutes during the postseason, but it doesn’t bother me.

The only goal is to win. I’ve been a pro a long time and I pride myself on being a professional. And playing time and minutes are things that I can’t control. The only thing I can control is what I do when that opportunity comes.

James Jones

"Youth Movement"

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So it’s a challenge for me – and one that I enjoy – because it forces me to push myself and test myself and maintain a certain level of efficiency and excellence that you typically get from playing.

At the end of the day, I know I could go a month without playing and I’ll be ready. And I appreciate that my teammates respect and understand that about me.

It’s not as easy for younger players – because usually when guys come into this league, they’re trying to establish themselves. And they’re basketball players, which means they’ve been playing this game all their lives and they still play because they love the game. And their love of the game and love for competition and opportunity to play is what propels them to wake up in the morning and come in here and work.

But the longer you play, the more you realize that the more professional you become, the desire to become an expert in your field is what pushes you. So I come in here early just looking to get better because I want to be the best basketball player I can be.

A lot of times for younger players, their reward is playing time. If the playing time is there, they’ll continue to work. If it’s not, it can be depressing. And you start to search for ‘What else can I do to earn minutes?’ And they don’t understand that’s what coaches are for. So it takes some time and a period of adjustment.

I went through it in the middle part of my career. It’s an adjustment where you say: ‘Hey, regardless of the outcome, my input will remain unchanged. I’m gonna work hard, I’m gonna bring it, I’m gonna invest the time to be the best player I can be at my position. And I’ll leave it up to the coach to make a tough decision: when to play me, how to play me, where to play me (if he plays me at all.) But it won’t change how I approach it and how good I am at my job.’

There’s always something you can get better at. And I think all players – young and old – can benefit from the weight room.

I’m still around the same weight as I’ve been – around 215 – but I’m in the weight room every day. I’m fighting Father Time, so as much as I can, I’m trying to improve what I can improve.

And with the decision to move from the 3 to the 4 (predominantly the 4), not only do I have to be stronger, I have to look stronger. Because when you’re going against an opponent, the first thing you do is give them the eye test. If they look like you can overpower them, you’re going to try to overpower them.

Understanding that part of it is what drives me to come in and lift. If I’m going to be a 4, I’m going to be the best ‘little 4’ in the league.

Work in the weight room is like maintenance. It’s like a car. If you have a high-mileage car, you can wait until the “check oil” or “check engine” light comes on. But if you have the luxury of giving it a good run-through every day, you would do that.

So the maintenance part of it is big for me and it’s big for all the guys. They’re competing at the highest level and they’re asking a lot from their bodies. So in order to combat the physical nature of the game, you have to build that armor. The stronger you build it, the longer it can go.

One individual who has about the best coat of armor around is LeBron James and this postseason will be our sixth straight together.

He’s in a great place right now. His emotional stability is increasing every year, but specifically from last year to this year.

I think he’s in perfect sync mentally and physically and, more importantly, he has a very good feel for his teammates, our system and just the organization as a whole. And by ‘organization’ I mean what coaches expect from him what his teammates expect of him (and what he expects of us).

So that comfort level allows him to really do everything he needs to do – in the weight room, in the film room, on the court – knowing that we’re all on the same page.

This year – dealing with the ebbs and flows of the game, the highs and lows – he’s been able to absorb that extremely well. And controlling his emotions is what this team feeds on. So you’re seeing over the last four, five months his ability to process things that frustrate him and still push out something positive, still fight through it and give our guys confidence that the mistakes that they’re making and the mistakes they’re going to make won’t disrupt him.

Because we all know it starts and ends with him. And as long as he’s stable and strong, we’re fine.