PORTLAND, Ore. – For most of last season, Tyus Jones was used to running the offense on his own. The point guard would relieve Jeff Teague and have free reign over the second unit.
Occasionally Teague and Jones might split backcourt duties, but for the most part, Jones was on his own.
Then Derrick Rose showed up late last season and Jones’ role changed. Rose came off the bench with Jones and that has carried into this season with coach Tom Thibodeau preferring to have two point guards on the floor at all times.
But the two-guard formation is still a work in progress for Jones’ 25 games into this season. Jones admitted before Saturday’s game against Portland he’s still trying to adjust to playing off the ball at times.
“I’m still trying to figure that out — when my looks are going to come, when I need to be aggressive trying to make plays or continue to run the offense,” Jones said. “It’s different, but I’m getting used to it. The more games we have, the more comfortable I’m going to be with it.”
Jones is playing about the same amount of minutes as last year — 17.9, but his offensive numbers are down in most categories. His field-goal percentage decreased from 46 to 34 percent, three-point percentage from 35 to 29 percent, and he’s averaging 4.3 points per game, down from 5.1, although his assists are steady at 2.8. Jones is also contributing on defense with 1.2 steals per game.
When he plays off the ball, Jones has to figure how best to react when the ball does swing to him and how to get open when not using his dribble.
“[Rose is] another guy who can create not only his shot but he demands a lot of attention for the defense so that opens up shots for others,” Jones said. “For me, that means [playing] more off-ball, but it’s something I have to get used to and have been getting used to.”
But the results overall for the bench unit have been positive. Jones has led a unit that is among the best benches in the league, especially since Robert Covington and Dario Saric joined the rotation. Jones has a net rating of 9.6 since the trade — a sign the bench has been a force of good.
“I’m not always initiating the offense,” Jones said. “But it’s been working for us.”
Guard Jerryd Bayless, who has yet to suit up for the Wolves since coming over with Covington and Saric from Philadelphia in the Jimmy Butler trade, said he is hopeful he will be ready to play in one to two weeks. Bayless is recovering from a left knee injury he suffered in September and previously said he wasn’t sure how long it would take him to rehabilitate the injury.
“It hasn’t gone as quickly as I would’ve hoped, but we’re getting to the stage now that I’m getting closer,” Bayless said. “That feels good at least.”
Bayless stayed in New York, where he lives in the offseason, after the trade to complete some of his rehab before moving to Minnesota. Now Bayless is traveling with the team while he recovers.
“I wanted to stay with the same program I was on and I was just graduating to the more physical part,” Bayless said. “I feel like I’m getting more comfortable.”