Is Terrence Jones NBA Ready?
The life of a rookie, even a first-round pick like Terrence Jones, can be a humbling and trying experience in today’s NBA. When the Houston Rockets drafted two more forwards this past June to add to the already packed stable of hybrid bigs on their roster, one of those picks – Jones – had to expect a battle to remain on the roster. More than two months into the 2012-13 NBA season, it’s been just that: a struggle to stay on the active roster and off the Rockets’ Developmental League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipors.
Even with fellow first round pick Royce White AWOL for the majority of the season, Jones has seen his fair share of D-League action over the course of two separate stints in Rio Grande Valley. The good news for both the Rockets, and Jones for that matter, is that the 21-year old rookie out of Kentucky is treating it like a learning experience and taking it all in stride.
“It’s been real beneficial,” Jones told HOOPSWORLD. “Just being able to get up and down, to get more experience and a chance to just get better has been great.”
Over the course of 11 games this season with the Rockets, Jones averaged just 3.1 points and 1.6 rebounds in limited minutes while looking every bit like a rookie in need of some polish. As a result, Houston has given Jones a direct message for his stints with the Vipors: make good use of increased playing time and develop your skills.
“Rebounding, scoring, defending and everything they want me to do when I get back [to the NBA],” Jones said of the Rockets’ expectations.
So far, Jones has done a solid job of trying to get better in each of those areas. In nine contests with the Vipors, Jones is averaging a double-double with 19.2 points and 11 boards per contest and his team was invited to the D-League Showcase in Reno, Nevada this past week.
Jones tells HOOPSWORLD that the D-League experience is very similar to college in that many of the players he used to go up against in the NCAA are fighting for NBA jobs as well.
“It’s very similar [to college],” Jones said. “Guys are going real hard, still fighting trying to get [to the NBA] and I see a lot of the same guys that I saw in college so there’s a lot of talented guys out there.”
In just a few weeks worth of action, Jones has established himself as one of the better players in the D-League, ranking among the league leaders in both rebounds per game and total double-doubles. Even though he’s not matching up against cream of the crop, NBA-level talent on a nightly basis in the D-League, it’s clear that Jones is taking the initiative to try to get better and make his way back to Houston.
“Yeah,” Jones told HOOPSWORLD as to whether or not he believes he can be an asset for the Rockets this season. “I know we’ve been doing very well right now, winning, so just whatever I can do to help”
Playing under Rockets’ head coach, and former Boston Celtics championship power forward, Kevin McHale has also benefitted the 6-foot-9, 250 pound Jones. Jones says McHale’s tutelage has played an important role early on in his development as an NBA four.
“It’s been good,” Jones said of learning from McHale. “Just to be able to get advice from a guy with experience, who knows the game from hands on experience and it’s just good to be able to have him as my coach.”
Despite a recent three-game skid, the Rockets have exceeded expectations this season featuring a 21-17 record – good for eighth in the brutally talented Western Conference. Second-year player Marcus Morris and third-year man Patrick Patterson have received the majority of run on the Rockets at the four positions, but it may not be wise to count Jones out just yet. As he showed last March in helping the Kentucky Wildcats to win a National Championship – and subsequently being drafted with the 18th overall pick – Jones has all the tools to succeed in the NBA.
The key will be how Jones responds to his stints in the D-League once he finds his way back onto the Rockets NBA roster. So far, Jones has shown that he’s willing to put in the time to be a better player but time will only tell if that will translate on an NBA floor.