LAS VEGAS – Timberwolves rookie point guard Tyus Jones promised his coach he would do better on Saturday’s second day of Las Vegas Summer League play than he did the first, and he did so the way any member of his generation might.
By text message.
He told coach Ryan Saunders that Friday’s scoreless, assist-less performance against the Los Angeles Lakers was behind him and delivered on his prediction of better things by delivering 14 points, three assists, two steals, two rebounds and two turnovers in Saturday’s 84-71 loss to Chicago at UNLV’s Thomas and Mack Center.
“Yesterday wasn’t a good showing,” Jones said, “but basketball’s a game of ups and downs and I told him I’d have a better impact on this team today. We had a few [text] exchanges back and forth when we got to the hotel and I told him I’d be ready to go. Tonight, I would say I didn’t overthink things. I just let the game come to me and played the game off of feel instead of thinking.”
Jones returned to a starter’s role Saturday after he came off the bench behind Lorenzo Brown on Friday. Saunders said coaches wanted Jones to watch the game speed up and down Friday and observe the opponent’s defense as well as experience the role he will have when the regular season comes and Jones backs up Ricky Rubio.
Maybe it was that new perspective that affected Jones. But more likely, it was a new pro game in which everybody is bigger, faster, quicker and more athletic.
“You have to get used to the game, the flow, the rhythm. You’ve just got to get adjusted,” said the 19-year-old, the 24th player taken in the NBA draft. “It’s a big leap from the college level. I know there’s going to be some lumps that you’ve got to take, but at the same time you have to be ready to learn and improve.”
Jones has been through this before. It was doubted he was big enough and fast enough to play when he made the transition to high school ball when he was an eighth-grader at Apple Valley High School and again last year at Duke.
“It was the same thing at Duke,” said Jones, the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four. “At the beginning of the year, I struggled. I was just trying to get used to everything. Eventually I turned the corner and everything worked out. Hopefully it will be the same thing here.”
Jones scored five points before Saturday’s first quarter was over, reached in and stole the ball from driving Bulls guard Ramon Galloway later in the game and got to the free-throw line for eight attempts.
“He played with confidence, composure,” Saunders said. “He was good, he made strides. Nothing really needed to be said yesterday. He understood he didn’t have the best game. He said he’d have a better game and I knew he would. He’s a competitor. He has won at every level.”
Jones also was the middle man in a lovely passing sequence that started with Karl-Anthony Towns’ outlet pass, which Jones turned into an alley-oop that Adreian Payne dunked with authority.
“I think you’re going to see a lot more of that,” Towns said.