“The most important ability is availability” is a long-enduring sports cliche regarding an athlete’s capacity to stay healthy, and it’s endured throughout the decades because it’s true, and a player’s capacity for mental engagement is a branch on the same tree, something that very much accounts for a big chunk of the success Jemerrio Jones had with the Lakers to end this season.
Jones tries to make something happen on every play, despite the limitations of his skill set. He cuts more than anyone because he knows he isn’t much of a threat as a spot-up shooter. He drops down to sandwich rebound. He runs the court in transition like his hair is on fire. He isn’t special because he does those things, he’s special because he does those things nearly every single time. Few NBA players can sustain a comparable effort.
Energy guys are easy to fall for, especially in such a dour season where I found myself watching as a fan and wondering why so many of the players don’t seem to care as much as I do. The old high school coach in me is a sucker for guys like Jones, who consistently and joyfully does the “little things” (I hate that term because it minimizes their importance, but it’s accurate here). Jones’ effort and affability were not only a brief breath of fresh air during this suffocating season, but also illustrated the value of the “little things” amidst otherwise wonky April basketball.
Jemerrio Jones is an anomaly. He has a small-ball center’s game in a shooting guard’s body. He doesn’t possess any NBA-caliber skills that he can use when his team is operating in half-court offense, and at some point, he’ll need to. But his ability to reach the NBA on the sheer force of his effort and engagement is a testament to the value of such under-appreciated attributes, and why the Lakers should heavily consider exercising their team option on the second year of his contract.