When the Los Angeles Lakers inked Damian Jones to a 10-day contract, they didn’t exactly know what version of him they’d receive.
The 25-year-old center etched a role for himself in the 2018-19 Golden State Warriors squad as an efficient rim-scoring big who could utilize his 6’11” body and 7’4″ wingspan to protect the paint in limited minutes. After Golden State dealt Jones to Atlantas, he remained efficient there, too, ushering the Phoenix Suns to sign him on a minimum contract this offseason.
Unfortunately, Jones’ efficiency and production declined in his 14 games with Phoenix, and with Frank Kaminsky’s resurgence, cutting ties with Jones became an easy decision.
Jones then signed with the Lakers, a team short on frontcourt depth without Anthony Davis, just before their contest with the Portland Trail Blazers. Jones didn’t feature in that game, but he debuted against the Warriors, the team who moved on from him, and turned some heads with an 8-point, 3-rebound, 2-block game on 3-3 shooting.
Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma liked what he witnessed from the former 30th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and expressed his confidence in Jones’ ability to stay with L.A. if he can produce as he did against Golden State.
“Man, I think he’s got a shot to be here if he can just do what he did out there,” Kuzma said. “Be a lob threat, got a big-time block. I don’t know how many minutes he played — might’ve been seven or eight — but had three rebounds in that time, and that’s a good rebounding rate. If he can do those things in small stints he’s got a chance to be here.”
Jones received the opportunity to be the roll big with Dennis Schroder on a couple of pick-and-rolls, and he set strong screens that opened space for him to score at the basket. Jones also stymied multiple shots at the rim, something Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell haven’t supplied much of.
The Lakers have sorely missed what JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard brought last season, and searching for someone who can proffer a solid interior presence has become pivotal without Davis.
If Jones can contribute in similar ways as a situational big, he could bestow some valuable depth off the bench, which is more crucial than ever as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to cause postponements and players missing games because of health and safety protocols.
Jones dismisses severity of back injury
After Los Angeles’ 117-91 win over Golden State, Jones suffered a low back strain that listed him on the injury report as day-to-day. Jones, fortunately, says it’s not too serious.
“It’s just some stiffness right now,” Jones said. “I feel like it will be good in a couple days. It’s nothing too major.”
The big man doesn’t have too much cushion in how many games are available to make an impact before his contract expires, but Jones has received support from the team while acknowledging the work he must supply in a tough personal situation.
“Everybody has been talking, telling me different ways I can help impact the team,” Jones added. “The situation, of course it’s pressure, but got to live up to the moment and perform your best. Know what you can do and go out and perform.”
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