Season Wrap-Up: JAMES JONES
August 17, 2015
Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty Images
When the Wine and Gold wrapped up the 2013-14 regular season, closing out the campaign with a win over Brooklyn, the ten Cavaliers who played that night had a total of 36 games of playoff experience. (And even that was spread between just two players – Jarrett Jack and Spencer Hawes – with 18 postseason games each.)
For comparison’s sake, this season’s Cavaliers wrapped up their regular season with a group of veterans who had a combined 784 games of playoff experience. One of those infinitely-experienced vets was James Jones – who, along with LeBron James, made his fifth straight NBA Finals appearance this past June, something that hadn’t been individually accomplished since the Celtics dynasties of the ‘60s.
When James Jones checked into Game 6 against Golden State, it was the 29th Finals appearance – and 128th playoff games – of his 12-year career. And for the man who Austin Carr describes as having “ice-water in his veins” there’s nothing he hasn’t seen on this stage.
On the Association’s biggest stage, Jones knows both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat – topping the Thunder in 2012 and Spurs in 2013; falling to the Mavericks in 2011, those same Spurs in 2014 and, most recently, the Warriors.
Jones played in all 20 of Cleveland’s postseason contests in 2014-15, culminating a season that got off to a slow start but saw the sharpshooting former Miami Hurricane entrenched in the Cavaliers’ playoff rotation.
The cerebral swingman – whose victory in the 2011 Three-Point Shootout earned him the team nickname “Champ” – appeared in 57 regular season games in his first year with the Wine and Gold, starting a pair and averaging 4.4 points on 37 percent shooting from the floor.
With Cleveland’s surplus of scoring options, Jones wasn’t asked to stuff the stat sheet this year. But he did notch double-figures on six occasions, hitting multiple three-pointers in 21 games, including three contests in which he canned four bombs from beyond the arc. In his 600th career game at Orlando on March 15, Jones went 4-for-8 from long-distance in 23 minutes, leading Cleveland to the 15-point win.
Jones role is similar on the defensive end – where the wily veteran might be the Cavaliers’ most erudite team defender, turning in game-changing defensive plays in Game 2 of the East Finals against Atlanta and Game 2 of the Finals against Golden State.
James Jones didn’t come to Cleveland to get extended minutes or jumpstart his career. He’s an accomplished, highly-respected vet who came here to do exactly what he did – hit some big shots, play solid team defense, fortify the bench and provide leadership to a group of young teammates making their first foray into the postseason.
”It just seems that every time we throw (Jones) out there, he does something to help the team and he’s always ready,” praised Coach David Blatt. “Every day he’s in it, he’s engaged and he’s all about helping the team whether it be saying the right things or whether it be playing when asked to play or making a shot when asked to make one. He’s just a dependable veteran that you can trust and he has been playing excellent basketball for us.”
James Jones posted some strong performances during the regular season – going 4-for-5 from deep in a big road win over Brooklyn, 3-for-4 in a road win over Washington after the All-Star Break and 4-for-7 in a victory in Toronto that gave Cleveland the season series against the Raptors.
But the seasoned playoff veteran naturally saved his best for the NBA’s “second season” – dropping a season-high 17 points on the Bulls when the Wine and Gold needed it most, following a Game 1 home loss to Chicago in the Second Round.
In that 15-point victory which evened the series at one game apiece, Jones went 6-for-10 from the floor, including 5-of-9 from beyond the arc in 22 minutes of action.
”I’m very confident in (Jones) – he’s battle tested,” gushed LeBron James following the win. “He’s playoff tested, he’s battle tested. He’s a true professional, a true gamer. Anytime his opportunity is called, especially when I’m on the floor I’m always looking for him. I know he’s capable of doing great things. For him to have 17 off our bench tonight (is great). Defensively he was in tune as well – his commitment to detail throughout the whole game. He’s just great to have – not only out on the floor but just in the locker room. He’s a great guy. I’m happy for him, I’m happy for his performance. I’m more proud of him than anybody tonight. He was amazing.”
Jones season wrapped up well -- playing in each of Cleveland’s 20 postseason games and appearing in all but one of the Cavs’ final 30 regular season contests. But the season didn’t start particularly well for him.
After inking a free agent deal with the Cavaliers on August 5 last summer, the man selected 48 spots after LeBron back in 2003 had a difficult time getting on the floor in the early-going.
During the first 17 games of the 2014-15 season, Jones saw action in just three contests – and attempted only four combined shots in those appearances. But on December 5, Jones went 2-of-3 from beyond the arc in a win over the Knicks at The Garden and 4-of-5 from deep three nights later in Brooklyn.
The rest of the season, as they say, is history.
Odds and Ends
The thoughtful, articulate father of three girls, James Jones currently serves as the secretary-treasurer of the National Basketball Players Association.
As a Finance major at “The U” – where he was recently inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame – Jones was a member of the Big East All-Academic Team during his first three years and was part of the prestigious Verizon Academic All-American team as a senior. At Coral Gables, James was a member of the National Honor Society and carried a 3.41 GPA.
Before the regular season tipped off, Jones spoke about his academic excellence at Coral Gables.
”I’ve always had the mindset wherever I dedicate myself to, I pursue it to the utmost,” recalled Jones. “And academically, that was something that’s easily controlled on my end. And I really cherished that opportunity because, being the oldest sibling in the house, with younger sisters and a brother behind me, I definitely wanted to let them know that – although they weren’t as athletically-inclined as I was – that there was an opportunity to do something special.”
By the Numbers
704 … three-pointers that James Jones has drilled over the course of his NBA career, 59th among all active players.
His .3984 percentage from long-distance puts him in 16th place among all active sharpshooters – 41st all-time in NBA history.
James Jones ... on how he maintains his mindset as a long-distance shooter …
“I wake up every day with the mindset that I’m on; that I’m always on. Like a 24-hour news channel – always on.
I try to set my routine so that I do the same thing every day. When I walk into the arena, every day my first shot, as I call it, is a ‘cold turkey three-pointer.’ And, I make that cold turkey three-pointer 90 percent of the time. The other 10 percent of the time, I’ll shoot until I make it. And once I make it, I feel like I’m on.
So it’s a mindset more than anything. We know that this game is all about numbers. At the end of the day, you’ll shoot above average, so I’ve always positioned myself mentally to know that I’ll shoot above average. Some days you’ll go 7-for-7, some days you’ll go 1-for-7. But my mindset is the same, which is: every time I shoot it, I’m going to make it.”
The Cavaliers and their coaching staff know exactly what they’ll be getting out of James Jones this upcoming season – and for a team with Championship aspirations, he’s exactly what they’ll need.
With scorers like LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the Wine and Gold are looking for someone to be that catch-and-shoot guy to punish defenses for collapsing too hard on any of Cleveland’s prized troika.
For a team in the Cavaliers’ position, Jones is an invaluable piece of the roster – solid, no-nonsense, low-maintenance veteran who’s as solid on the floor as he is in the locker room.
Though he’s not on the level of LeBron James, there’s a reason James Jones has joined him on five straight Finals teams – and will return to try and make it six when their 13th NBA seasons tip off in Training Camp.