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Archive for July 10th, 2008

Basketball Jones

If you haven’t yet read Jack McCallum’s :07 Seconds Or Less about his moonlighting stint as an assistant coach with the 2005-06 Phoenix Suns, allow me to sprinkle in a minor spoiler: James Jones plays the bad guy.

For some unfounded and unwritten reason, McCallum – Sports Illustrated’s chief NBA writer – has it out for the affable Jones throughout the entire book. But for the life of me, I find it hard to believe Jones is really the dislike type. Anyone who covered the Portland Trail Blazers last season will surely agree.

The guy was clutch on the court and courteous off. What more can you ask for?

But now he is gone. He inked a five-year deal with his hometown Miami Heat yesterday (see the outro on my latest Blazers story over at HOOPSWORLD). Good for him. Not so much for the rest of us. I’m guilty of playing the selfish card here, but it’s not going to be the same without James Jones in Portland next season and we all know why.

Real talk: the guy is classy. When speaking with Jones, it wasn’t uncommon for him to float between talking about taking his kids to Chuck E. Cheese’s and watching endless episodes of Dragon Tales, before flipping it on you and breaking down the tricks of the trade he learned from Reggie Miller while coming up with the Indiana Pacers.

Win, lose or draw, Jones always had time to talk. That is, when he wasn’t razzing Channing Frye or Travis Outlaw in the usually locker room inside jokes which helped keep the young Blazers locker room loose. Real loose.

On the floor, Jones was lights out when healthy (who could forget his constant timely stroke from beyond the arc: 6-7 against Memphis, 5-5 at Golden State, back-to-back 5-5 games against Minnesota and Chicago, 7-9 at Utah, back-to-back 7-7 nights versus Golden State and Utah at home during the Blazers 13-game win streak….just to name a few). He was one of the league leader in three-point percentage for the duration of the year (finished third in the league in that category), and you can’t but wonder what he could have really done had his jacked-up knee not given him fits. Nate McMillan wanted to start him at the start of the season, this much is true.

Come to think about it, McCallum often rushed to knock Jones’ health in :7 Seconds Or Less, that is when he wasn’t harping on his untimely locker room speeches and Jones questionable shot selection – or ability to shy away from hitting the big bucket.

This isn’t the James Jones I saw or came to know. Made me wonder why McCallum had it out for Jones. So I asked someone who might know: then Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni.

“Nah, I didn’t catch that,” D’Antoni told me when I asked him about the book – and what McCallum’s beef was with Jones – this past March when Phoenix rolled through Portland. “But there was a lot of stuff we asked him to not put in the book, and some stuff he did on his own. We miss James. James was great for us, and his wife is even nicer than he is.”

Maybe this was just a case of a writer writing what he saw and heard. I can relate. And I am in no way hating on McCallum’s book. It’s an amazing read, cover to cover. This is more about Jones the player and person: his veteran leadership, inspiring work ethic, tipping balls out, blocking shots, being the decoy, hitting from the corner and the lanes. The Miami Heat are in good hands with Jones – health willing.

I’m not sure about Mr. McCallum, but I will never look at the three point line at the Rose Garden the same way…. especially the corners.

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