"Could J.J. Fill Need for Perimeter Punch?

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Conrad Brunner

Q. I have noticed that most people are concerned about the Pacers' outside shooting and how we "need another weapon." However, I believe we have that weapon in James Jones. When the starters went down with injuries and suspensions, he stepped his game up incredibly. Also, during the playoffs, he was incredibly clutch on defense with steals and blocks and offense with consistent shooting. Assuming the Pacers are able to keep him, what's the probability that he will become a part of the regular second-team rotation? Would he sub for (Stephen) Jackson and (Ron) Artest? (From Max in Dallas)

A. James Jones took several steps in the career evolution process this season. Though the acquisition of Stephen Jackson could've meant little or no playing time and quite possibly no roster spot at all he simply continued his hard work, kept his confidence up and in the immediate aftermath of Nov. 19 had a coming-out party, scoring 22 against Orlando and 27 in Seattle while averaging 15.7 points in a six-game span. Defenses adjusted, took away the 3-point shot and his productivity sagged and, as suspended and injured players returned to action, his playing time dwindled.

But Jones is nothing if not relentless and he made adjustments to his game, worked on an up-and-under move that would use the threat of the 3-point shot to get an open mid-range jumper while also improving his overall game ballhandling, rebounding, individual defense. Late in the year, he showed a much more complete game and was again producing regular double-figure scoring games off the bench. He did so four times in April after just twice in the previous three months.

While he made major strides and established himself as a legitimate NBA player, it remains to be seen how prominent a role he'll play next season. Behind Jackson and Artest at shooting guard and small forward, James and Fred Jones currently are the two primary substitutes. Both are emerging players who helped their causes immensely last season, but the Pacers may still be on the lookout for a proven veteran to round out the rotation at those two critical positions."