The Los Angeles Lakers may have lost against the Golden State Warriors on Friday night, and were honestly never really in the game, but don’t tell that to their recent G League call-up, Jemerrio Jones.
In his first extended burn since signing a deal with the Lakers for the rest of this season and a non-guaranteed second year, Jones shined amidst the chaos like a billboard-topping band playing as the Titanic sunk, showing admirable commitment to shining in his task. In one of the last games of the season, Jones wasn’t going to waste any opportunities to show he deserves to be on this level.
“Just bring your all, because you never know when it’s your last,” Jones told reporters of his approach to the game after the 108-90 defeat in which he was somehow a +23 while he was on the floor. “Just play like it’s your last game too. Just keep hooping, really. That’s what I’m here for. To hoop. And I get paid for what I do, so I give my all to it.”
In addition to his impressive plus-minus, Jones giving his all allowed him to finish the night with 4 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in 27 minutes of playing time, something our own Alex Regla — who has covered Jones’ season in the G League extensively — dubbed “the most Jemerrio Jones statline ever.”
And it wasn’t just us nerdy bloggers that Jones impressed. Lakers head coach Luke Walton liked what he saw too.
“He took full advantage of the opportunity. We were playing the champs, but he wasn’t scared,” Walton said. “He came in ready to scrap, and he was one of the bright spots for us.”
Jones also said he wasn’t afraid, because in addition to wanting to play every game like it’s his last, he doesn’t care if he ends up on highlights. He just wants the chance to go up against the best of the best, and he’s not afraid to admit that this is a lot different than the elite talent of the G League if reporters try to compare the two.
”They elite elite though,” Jones said of trying to guard Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry at various points, cutting off a question that tried to give him credit for guarding the best players in the G League as well.
“S***, you know they elite. They shooting that thang as soon as they come across half, so that made it a better challenge too, and I was willing to guard them 94 (feet) too... I didn’t mind getting crossed either, so just come with their game. They put hella people on highlights. It doesn’t matter if they put J. Jones on one,” Jones said, almost dismissively spitting his own name at the end to emphasize how little he thinks people know of him.
In fact, Jones, who ends around 50 percent of his answers with a confident “mhmm,” doesn’t need people to tiptoe around the fact that this is probably the first many have ever heard of him. He seems to embrace his own relative namelessness, almost endearingly so, a trait most notably on display when he was asked about if rebounding in the NBA has been harder than it was in the G League, where the guard who has admitted he’s “6’5 with shoes on” often put up cartoonish numbers on the boards.
”Nah, because they don’t know I can rebound out here like that yet. So they really weren’t boxing me out either,” Jones said, his perpetual grin never leaving his face. “They don’t know about me. They don’t know I can rebound like that until they look me up.”
Do they need to go check out your New Mexico State film?
“Yeah, they gotta go check me out,” Jones laughed.
Jemerrio Jones talks about rising up to the challenge of guarding Golden State's best players, and his defensive and rebounding presence. pic.twitter.com/SZvD85HDw3— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) April 5, 2019
The thing is, though, Jones doesn’t blame his competition for not knowing who he is yet. Even he didn’t expect to get called up this year, to the point that he was totally unbothered by his South Bay teammates Andre Ingram and Scott Machado receiving opportunities before him.
“I respect them. You know they the OGs of our team, so I really didn’t mind that,” Jones said. “My time was gonna come. I ain’t expect to get called up this year. I said ‘give me two years in the G League and I’ll probably get called up next year some time.’
“I don’t know,” Jones said when pressed on why he didn’t expect a call-up. “I just wasn’t looking for it for my rookie year. I was gonna wait until my second year, get comfortable.”
Jones didn’t say so, but going unspoken is that players like him aren’t normally the types that get call-ups. Teams are getting smarter about this — like the Lakers, with the David Nwaba call-up two years ago — but most often it’s a G League team’s leading scorer that gets a call-up, or shooters who do the flashy things.
However, a lot of times guys like that aren’t ready to score on the NBA level, or aren’t better than their teammates at it, and wilt without the ball in their hands, not offering enough value with complementary skills.
Jones doesn’t have that problem, and he knows the only thing probably standing between him and a consistent NBA opportunity is his lack of a reliable jumper (shooting just 33.3 percent on threes in the G League). That’s what he’s most focused on improving this summer.
“I want to get my jumper right for sure. Because I can do everything else. Defend and all that. I want to get a consistent jumper and open it up for my teammates. Mhmm,” Jones said, before the defensive stopper fittingly turned the tables on his opponent, in this case a reporter.
“What you think (I need to improve on)? I’m just asking, you asked me that, so you gotta think something,” Jones said, a playful grin never leaving his face. “I only made four threes in college.”
He actually made nine, but Jones can be forgiven for the error. He probably just figured that like his opponents, most of us haven’t looked up his time at New Mexico State yet. If he keeps playing like this, no one is going to need to, either. There will be plenty of room for J. Jones on the scouting report.