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Terrence Jones owns one of the NBA’s most unique and effective pump fakes
Some NBA players aspire to become known as great shooters. Others hope to build a reputation as an elite dunker, rebounder, or defender. Meanwhile, one of Terrence Jones’ goals is a bit less conventional: the New Orleans forward hopes to be recognized for having the game’s premier pump fake.
“I truly believe it is one of the best in the NBA,” Jones said. “I think that’s why it’s worked. In this game, you’ve got to have that utmost confidence to be successful.”
In his first season with the Pelicans, the left-hander has drawn curious reactions from fans, media and teammates as they watch Jones unfurl an old-school, methodical fake that always seems to dupe his defender. Once his man jumps or gets slightly off-balance, Jones uses the split-second advantage to dribble by and get to the basket.
Even among other Pelicans players, who’ve now seen it dozens of times, the uncanny effectiveness of the seemingly slow-motion move can be difficult to explain.
“I really couldn’t tell you,” Pelicans teammate Langston Galloway said, laughing. “But he sells it really well. It’s one of the best ones out there. It’s tough to stop. Everybody falls for it.”
“It’s so damn slow, and it looks just like his shot,” forward Dante Cunningham explained of the pump fake, grinning. “The thing is, you don’t always immediately close out to him, because he’s not necessarily going to kill you with his jump shot, because he’d rather drive and get to the rim. But you watch him and he does it so slowly that you think, ‘Oh, he has to shoot this one,’ so you contest it, but then by the time you get there, he’s still pump-faking.”
As Cunningham notes, Jones has never been a high-level perimeter shooter (career 30.1 percent on three-pointers), but that’s actually a central part of the backstory behind Jones’ focus as a teen on developing a devastating pump fake. Growing up in Portland, Ore., Jones had two older cousins who became NBA players, Damon Stoudamire and Salim Stoudamire, both smaller guards who were feared perimeter scorers. Conversely, Jones’ strengths are his size (6-foot-9, 252 pounds), versatility and ability to finish plays in the paint.
“It was something I installed as a young dude who wasn’t really trusting my shot,” Jones said. “I wanted to make sure that I could still get defenders off their feet, and still have the advantage of being able to attack, with guys not wanting to guard or defend my (outside) shot as much.
“My cousins were great shooters, but I wasn’t necessarily a shooter. So I had to figure out a way to create a mismatch when my defender wanted to give me room, because I was a better driver, ballhandler and attacker than shooter. I had to figure out a way to still get that separation (from defenders) as (my cousins) did.”
The art of the pump fake
Like a Major League Baseball pitcher who must make his fastball appear exactly the same as a curveball at its release point, the success of a good pump fake rests on being to replicate a player’s actual shooting motion. In this regard, the Jones pump fake receives high marks.
“You can’t really tell a difference between it and his normal shot,” Galloway credited.
“I put a lot of concentration into working on it,” Jones said. “It’s an acting job. You have to really convince your defender that you’re going to shoot the ball. No matter what type of percentage I’ve shot in the NBA, I’ve gotten guys to go for it, because of how similar it is to my shot.
“You’ve got to make sure it looks exactly the same. You can’t rush it, because if you do, it doesn’t look as believable as your shot. I try to do the same thing every time. It’s really practice. I’ve been working on it for so long and using it in practice, full action and games. It’s a go-to move now.”
As a young player who became a top-10 nationally-ranked high school recruit, prior to starring in college at the University of Kentucky, Jones studied some of the NBA’s best practitioners of pump fakes, gleaning tricks of the trade along the way.
“I’ve always watched the greatest guys’ pump fakes, such as Paul Pierce, and always paid attention to guys who have a unique advantage,” Jones said, before listing some of his favorites. “Boris Diaw has a great one. Larry Bird could get defenders off their feet. Chandler Parsons had a great pump fake when I played with him in Houston. Al Jefferson in the post. Kobe Bryant. Those are all great ones.”
Just as Jones has studied some of the most prolific users of the pump fake, opposing NBA teams are well aware that Jones leans heavily on the move. That doesn’t mean they can stop it, even if they don’t try to hide their awareness of his deception. Jones constantly hears defenders reminding each other about it.
Jones: “Every team we play, I hear them say, ‘Stay down. Watch the pump fake!’ It’s in the scouting report. It excites me to know that it’s in the scouting report, but it still works.”
New Orleans center/forward Donatas Motiejunas may know Jones’ game as well as any active NBA player, as a teammate for all five years of his career, including the previous four seasons in Houston. The 7-footer from Lithuania does provide some hope for players who want to solve the riddle of the Jones pump fake, but also notes that it may take years.
“First of all, when he does his pump fake, he fully extends his body, so it looks for sure like he’s going to shoot it,” Motiejunas said. “Not a lot of people can do it that way, because after you do it like that, you have to gather yourself for balance. As a defender, it’s really hard to stay down and not believe he’s faking it. But I’ve played with him for five years, so most of the time I know when he’s faking it.
“I kind of know his tricks,” Motiejunas continued, smiling. “At the beginning, though, I was jumping – for the same pump fake – every time.”