Since early January, Jalen Jones has been splitting time between the NBA G-League’s Texas Legends and the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.
But you won’t hear the Dallas native complaining.
Jones, 24, was claimed by the Mavs January 8 after he’d been waived by the New Orleans Pelicans, who the Dallas Kimball HS product had played four games for earlier this season.
The Mavs signed Jones, who played collegiately at SMU and Texas A&M, to a two-way contract, meaning he can spend a maximum of 45 days in the NBA while spending the rest of his time in the G-League.
Last fall, New Orleans had signed him under a similar arrangement.
(I’ve) just got to be prepared at any moment,” Jones said. “Then, when you get called up, you got to be ready at any moment. You got to be ready to get on the court, perform and help the team win. It’s just kind of an adjustment thing. You got to catch the vibe.”
Many NBA teams, including the Mavs, have their G-League affiliates located across town, which allows players to move between leagues rather easily.
However, New Orleans, whose affiliate is several states away in Greensboro, North Carolina, didn’t have such a luxury, which meant several impromptu trips to the airport for Jones earlier this season.
Sometimes I’d get a call at midnight (saying) ‘we’re calling you up. There’s going to be a car for you at your apartment at four or five o’clock in the morning, you have a flight at seven.’ I’d be in North Carolina, get a phone call and the next thing you know, I’m catching a ride to the airport,” Jones said.
And even though he spent the bulk of his time in the Pelicans organization with the Greensboro Swarm, playing just four NBA games, he still has great things to say about his time in the Big Easy.
It was a great experience. I got a chance to be around superstars like DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis,” Jones said. “Veteran guys such as (Rajon) Rondo, Tony Allen and those guys taught me a lot about what it takes to be a pro, what it takes to stay in the NBA. They have a first-class organization as well. Anytime you get a chance to be around superstars and see how they live their lives (it’s great).”
But even as great as things were for him with the Pelicans, when he got signed by the Mavs, the team he grew up watching in his hometown, and getting the chance to play an NBA game in front of so many friends and family, that was nothing short of a dream come true.
Oh man, it’s been a blessing. To play high school here, to play college at SMU and now to play professional (basketball in my hometown) is a dream come true,” Jones said. “I never thought that would happen, but the opportunity for my family to go watch me play and my friends get to come out here and see me play (is great). It’s just an honor and I’m happy I can experience all that in one city.”
This season marks Jones’ second in the G-League after he spent the 2016-17 campaign with the Maine Red Claws.
And after coaching against the 6-foot-7 native Texan last season, second-year Texas head coach Bob MacKinnon Jr. is more than happy to have Jones on his team this time around.
(He’s been) fantastic, he’s extremely coachable,” MacKinnon said. “He works. He puts in not only the work, but the extra work. I think his improvements have been terrific since he’s been with us. He played primarily as an inside player in college and even last year with Maine, they mainly used him as an inside player. Now he’s growing his game and you look at him as a guy who’s going to have a 10 to 12-year NBA career.”
Jones has only played under MacKinnon since early in 2018, but it’s clear there is already a high level of mutual respect between player and coach.
Coach has shown me nothing but love since I got here. He’s a great motivator and he’s a players’ coach,” Jones said. “Everybody on the team loves him. He’s going to be hard on you, but you know he wants the best for you. He’s been teaching me a lot since I’ve been here and helped me a lot with my game.”
To date, Jones has played five games for the Mavericks, and each time he’s been summoned to the NBA, much like he did with New Orleans, he has again savored the opportunity to learn from great veterans like franchise icon Dirk Nowitzki, now playing his 20th season with Dallas.
It’s been great. They’re a first-class organization. The guys on the team have welcomed me in as soon as I got there. It’s a bunch of great guys,” Jones said. “Anytime I go up there, I’ve always gotten better, and they’ve always given me an opportunity to go out there and showcase all of my talents.”
Jones admits he still has a few star-struck moments when he’s sitting in an NBA locker room or is on the court and the sheer enormity of sharing a locker room with someone like Nowitzki or former Pelicans teammates DeMarcus Cousins or Anthony Davis hits him yet again.
But, he also realizes he’s here to do a job and from now until the end of the season, no matter whether he’s a Mav or a Legend, his goal remains the same.
I just want to continue to get better and I want to finish out the season strong. Finish out the season strong, continue to get better and let’s see what the future holds,” Jones said.