Oklahoma City Thunder fans desperate for optimism and reeling from the unpleasant events of Games 2-5 of the 2012 NBA Finals, meet Perry Jones III.
Alternately maligned and touted after falling to the Thunder with the No. 28 pick in June’s draft, Jones was arguably the best player on the floor in the Thunder’s opening contest of the Orlando Summer League against the Boston Celtics Monday morning.
Jones’ shooting stroke looked smooth on several catch-and-shoot opportunities, and he also showed a willingness to mix it up around the basket, whether finishing a strong drive while drawing a foul from Fab Melo, or banging bodies with Jared Sullinger (as good as the Celtics hoped with 20 points in 25 minutes) on defense.
Jones’ role in Oklahoma City this summer is uncertain, since he’ll be backing up scoring champion Kevin Durant and All-Defensive First Team member Serge Ibaka. If he competes this hard on defense while also providing some of the offense he flashed today, though, he will find a role on a team that struggled to find offense beyond its Olympian trio of Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden.
Jones’ offensive prowess (16 points, 7-16 field goals) was the best weapon OKC had on display today. Others who showed they could make an impact for the Thunder, or on another interested team’s roster, included Garrett Temple, who showed a nice shooting stroke, and Dwight Buycks, who went all-out on both ends in his limited minutes.
A few returning Thunder players showed some alarming signs, though.
Reggie Jackson: Finished with 19 points, but looked for his own shot to a disturbing extent, attempting 15 field goals and six free throws while registering only two assists and turning the ball over four times in 29 minutes. He calmed down a bit in the second quarter after a brief rest, but failed to stake his claim to the backup point guard position that he will likely lose next season anyway when Eric Maynor returns from his torn ACL. Jackson may have been trying to showcase himself for other teams, who may have been impressed with his shot-making but likely found his usage rage worrisome.
Cole Aldrich: Competed hard, but looked slow and awkward on both ends. Sean Williams outquicked him for several offensive rebounds, and Aldrich could do almost nothing when given touches in the post, displaying little skill or feel while frequently fumbling the ball away. For a Thunder team that feels it has to improve its low-post offense, Aldrich seemed unable to suggest himself as the answer.
Lazar Hayward: Had a stat line as deceiving as Jackson’s, with 18 points coming on 4-14 field goal shooting in 37 minutes of action. Hayward had a few moments for the Thunder last season, but seemed uninterested in anything but looking for his own shot when surrounded by the summer league roster. He will lose his end-of-rotation minutes quickly with this level of selfishness.
About the Author
Written by Steven Jones
Portland native, Highland Park resident, middle school teacher/basketball coach.