What surprised fans wasn’t his signature dunks, but his intense effort on the defensive side.
Little known to most people was a quote from an article in March of 2017.
”I want to be the Defensive Player of the Year as many times as I can,” Jones says. “I’m gonna be that defender and hopefully I’ll be able to contribute on the defensive end to win championships.”
While in the then D-League he embraced defensive assignments such as covering Sioux Fall’s Briante Weber.
”Everybody is so excited about his athletic ability when he dunks — and rightfully so,” Ellis says. “But there was a game against Sioux Falls, and we was playing against Briante Weber. He’s in the NBA now with Charlotte, and he’s a point guard. And Briante was having a good game against us, and Derrick asked me if he could guard him. I said, ‘Yeah. You know, I want you to take that challenge.’ And he did a phenomenal job on him. And Derrick picked him up full court and just got us back into the game. So that particular game, I’m like, ‘This kid can be special.’”
Under Jones Jr. easy-going demeanor lies a person who doesn’t back down to anyone on the basketball court, even a Russell Westbrook.
Jones Jr. even got drawn into a scuffle with John Wall as a member of the Miami Heat.
A pointed comment of the video above said it all.
“Everybody’s tough until James Johnson is in the game.”
Now the one trait Derrick Jones Jr. possesses isn’t supreme talent, but going full throttle all the time, as if he doesn’t have an off switch.
Jones Jr. seems to have a form of basketball amnesia where he doesn’t dwell on past successes, or mistakes, but plays totally within the present moment despite what happened before, good or bad.
Slights, snubs, injuries don’t bother him at all when he’s performing on the court.
He’s somewhat like Dion Waiters in never being moody, so having Waiters back with Jones Jr., James Johnson, Dwyane Wade, Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow on the court would have guys other teams wouldn’t pick a fight with.
The unexpected emergence of Jones Jr. as an asset on defense, plus the return to health of a well-rested Waiters puts an entirely new spin for the Miami Heat going forward.