Dame Time is over in Los Angeles, as the Lakers have decided to let Damian Jones go, according to Dan Woike of the L.A. Times.
Sources say the Lakers are not re-signing center Damian Jones for the rest of the season after his second 10-day contract expired. Jones has been a fill-in starter and played well, but hard cap, roster limitations win out in the end.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) March 21, 2021
The 10th day of Jones’ second 10-day contract was Saturday, which meant the team was faced with a decision: Keep him for the rest of the season, or let him go. They have chosen the latter, even though they liked what he brought.
“He brings great energy. He’s a pogo stick around the basket so he gives us dynamic verticality with his lob-catching ability offensively and defensively he’s really picked up what we’re asking him to do in our pick-and-roll defense and our coverages,” head coach Frank Vogel said on Saturday before Jones was let go. “He provides some length at the basket from a shot-blocking standpoint. He’s played well for us.”
With the March 25 NBA trade deadline coming up this week, this is not an entirely surprising outcome. This move gives the Lakers two open roster spots to play with going into the deadline, giving them flexibility to do an uneven trade or to sign players that get bought out or waived after getting moved. They have been linked to plenty of names as Thursday approaches.
Still, on a human level, this is a sad outcome. Jones did everything the Lakers asked him to do while he was with the team, from rushing to Los Angeles on short notice just to sign his contract to capably starting in multiple games for them while Marc Gasol was out due to the health and safety protocols. He gave the Lakers a jolt of energy while they were missing multiple starters. This release isn’t his fault, and it’s also not impossible to see him coming back. The Lakers can still sign him for the rest of the season later if they don’t like who becomes available in the buyout market (as long as Jones doesn’t sign elsewhere first, obviously).
That might just be their plan, and it’s a fine gamble. Let Jones walk away for now, survey their options, and then see if he’s the type of mobile lob threat they want to bring in for extra center depth as they head towards the postseason. But if this actually is goodbye, we’ll always have the week where he was the most efficient scorer in Lakers history. It was a fun time, and definitely gave this slog of a regular season a much-needed spark. I think I can speak for all of us in wishing him the best of luck to him moving forward, wherever he lands next.
Without Jones on the roster, it remains to be seen who the Lakers will start at center against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday. If Marc Gasol still can’t play, Montrezl Harrell may have to start (and play the majority of minutes at the position).