Since the start of the NBA’s latest free agency period on July 1, many players have received enormous contracts. In fact, some of the largest deals in NBA history were handed out by teams this summer.
But every year, there are always a few surprises in free agency. This year, one of the players who shocked some people was Terrence Jones, who signed with the New Orleans Pelicans on a deal that’s worth the veteran’s minimum for one season.
Jones, a former national champion with the University of Kentucky, had many thinking he was going to seek a big-time contract because of the unprecedented cap rise and his potential. After all, he’s only 24 years old and showed a lot of potential during his time with the Houston Rockets. However, his decision-making process was much different than many would’ve anticipated for a young and hungry player.
“I wanted an opportunity to play for a team that is young and defining itself, but could still compete right away,” Jones told Basketball Insiders.” I wanted a larger role, where I could really compete and help a team win.”
It was apparent that Jones needed a change of scenery based on what happened in his time with Houston. In and out of the rotation, Jones’ minutes were inconsistent (with injuries also playing a role in this). After averaging career-highs in points (12.1), rebounds (6.9) and minutes (27.3) in the 2013-14 season, he averaged just 8.7 points and 4.2 rebounds last year while playing the second-fewest minutes (20.9) of his career.
Despite the injuries and up-and-down role, Jones still grew and matured while in Houston.
“Going to the playoffs each season was a great learning experience for me,” Jones said. “Playing at that level shows you what it takes to win a championship. I learned a lot on how to play your role and help the team in any way you can. You aren’t always going to have the ball in your hands, but you can still make an impact on both ends of the floor. Experience is key in this league and the Rockets gave me that.”
Jones believes that New Orleans can take a significant step forward next season after finishing this past injury-plagued campaign with a 30-52 record.
“I want to win. Period,” Jones said. “Every level I’ve played at, I’ve been a winner and that’s my motivation every time I step onto the court. I always leave it on the floor and believe in winning at all costs. Part of my decision was a finding a team that fit with that philosophy of always having a chip on their shoulder.”
After many different offers, including some from other contending teams around the league, Jones and his agent decided to finalize a deal with New Orleans. Jones liked the seamless fit and the chance for a larger role. Another reason why he chose New Orleans? The opportunity to pair up with his former Kentucky teammate, Anthony Davis.
“When you win a championship with a guy, you create this special bond and you can’t question their drive or willingness to sacrifice,” Jones said, speaking of his relationship with Davis. “We won a lot of games together and I know what he’s capable of. We both work well together and we’ve already got a great chemistry and friendship. When he’s healthy, I think he’s as good as any other big in the league so I am excited to see what we can do this year.”
There are many reasons for free agents like Jones to chase the money, specifically because playing careers in the NBA only last so long. But ending up in a bad situation and regretting your decision is a possibility too. With a close friend on the roster, a talented group around him and head coach Alvin Gentry running things, Jones is confident he chose the right team.
“You’ve seen what he’s done for other teams,” Jones said of Coach Gentry. “He gives you the confidence that the team can succeed. I think he’s as hungry as everyone else on the roster to prove that this group can win. I’m looking forward to getting out there and making it all come together.”
Although the Pelicans didn’t make the playoffs last season, Jones knows they have a team that’s ready to compete.
“Our goal is to be better than we were last year, make some noise out West and compete in the playoffs,” Jones said. “That’s always the goal and I think we have a group that can do it. They had a lot of injuries last year and I think people forgot they were in the playoffs the year before.”
Don’t be surprised to see a re-invigorated Jones next season. Taking a discount to play with a promising team is somewhat of a risk, but if all goes as planned and the situation is good, Jones could be sitting pretty next summer.
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