With several matchups going right down to the wire during these NBA Playoffs, it feels like a lifetime ago since the Miami Heat last played. They made quick work of the Charlotte Bobcats in the opening round, cleanly sweeping the seventh seed 4-0 without much trouble at all.
Unfortunately, that has meant a lengthy break between rounds while they wait for the winner of the series between the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets. So by the time they step out onto the court again on Tuesday night, the Heat will have had a week off since their previous game, an eternity in NBA terms. More than enough time for the rust to set in.
However, for all the worries the long layoff may bring, there’s at least one player coach Erik Spoelstra can count on to be ready: James Jones.
Despite being one of the most lethal 3-point shooters in the games, the veteran marksmen has been used sparingly this season. He played in just 20 games during the regular season, and 38 in the season prior to that. Not because of injuries, but simply because Spoelstra decided against it. At one point he actually went 31 straight games (Jan. 18 to March 26) without seeing a single minute of game time come his way.
Yet he has somehow managed to remain positive, continued to work hard and has been ready to contribute whenever his number was called. And that is something that has earned him high praise from his teammates.
“He is a different level,” Shane Battier said. “I have never ever played with anyone like J.J. — to shoot like he can under any condition. You put that guy in, and you think he’s making the shot. That is not the norm. … That guy is really one in a million.”
“We’ve come to expect that out of James,” Chris Bosh added. “He’s the best cold shooter I’ve ever seen. He just comes in and makes shots right away. He has kind of spoiled us a little bit in that aspect, just with his ability. He’s a pro’s pro.”
A “pro’s pro,” that is probably the best way to describe Jones who has been a consummate professional despite seeing his court time dwindle over the past couple of years. His work rate is the stuff of legends in the Miami Heat locker room. LeBron James went so far as to call him a “freak” due to the way he works so hard even though he never knows whether he’ll be playing or not.
Moreover, he has seemingly accepted his role with open arms.
“I’ve been in this role for a couple of years here, and I think the difficult times in dealing with it have passed,” he said after coming on to score 12 points in Game 1 against Charlotte. “I’m a competitor, and I play this game to play and to win. I got a chance to do both.”
Then again you have to wonder how long that will last considering how far he has dropped down the pecking order. And come free agency this summer, will it be a factor when he is choosing his next destination?
With a 40 percent career 3-point percentage(and 52 percent in 2013-14), he will no doubt be a hot commodity in the open market, especially to a contender looking for that something extra. Plus, there’s no telling how long the Heat will be challenging for titles considering the “Big Three” are set make north of $20 million each next season (if they all opt in this summer), thus leaving very little money to sign quality role players.
Sure, as a Miami native there’s a certain allure to resigning with the Heat, but I doubt he will be as keen to sign back on for a cut price and no guarantee of playing time or playing for a winner.
On the upside, at least Spoelstra has been using him so far in the postseason after he averaged 16 minutes per game in the first round.