PBA: Terrence Jones' new tropa wants to send him back to the NBA
Paul Lintag on Jul 16, 2019 08:38 AM
“Lalo na kung mag-champion kami, mabango yung pangalan niya di ba?” Pogoy said of Terrence Jones’ NBA chances.
Over the last couple of seasons, the PBA has seen its share of super imports.
Ginebra’s Justin Brownlee immediately comes to mind. Meralco’s Allen Durham and Phoenix’s Eugene Phelps fit in that mold too. Alaska’s Mike Harris is in that list as well. The uber-talented Glen Rice Jr. could have made it if he just got it together.
But for the 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, TNT brought not just any other import. Tired of underperforming for the past few conferences, the KaTropa went ahead and signed former Houston Rockets forward Terrence Jones for the mid-season joust.
With Jones, TNT went the super — SUPER — import route and it has been worth every penny for the KaTropa, at least so far.
Many former NBA players have played in the PBA before, that’s not a new thing. But what makes Jones special is that he’s at his peak of his powers now as he plays his first stint in the PBA.
Jones is a former first-round pick and was a legitimate NBA contributor.
In his best NBA season, in 2013-2014 for Houston, Jones started 71 games and had career-high numbers of 12.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
This dude is legit.
“Oo iba, iba siya talaga,” guard RR Pogoy said of Jones.
(Yes, he’s really different).
In just one conference, Pogoy and Jones have clicked as teammates. Terrence has admitted that RR is one of his favorite local targets when he’s trying to spot an open teammate when opposing teams double on him.
Pogoy admits that Jones is one of the best, if not the best, import he’s ever played with.
“Pwedeng-pwede pa siya talaga sa NBA eh. Iba yung skills niya,” he added.
(He could still play in the NBA. His skills are just different).
TNT has ran pretty much the same system for years. Whether you like this team or not, they know what style they want to play and they identify players that fit that system well.
The KaTropa have dominated the PBA without a traditional big man. Ask other teams, they’ve been blindsided and bamboozled by a TNT offense led by diminutive point guards like Jimmy Alapag and Jayson Castro.
However, the KaTropa have hit another rough patch. The team hasn’t made it to the PBA semifinals since 2017. Their 2018 campaign was a lot like the horror 2016 year with the only difference being three seasons ago, they actually made it to the semifinals of the Governors’ Cup as a no. 1 seed.
Last year, they won zero playoff games and missed the playoffs altogether once. In essence, 2018 was a worse nightmare for the KaTropa. It didn’t help that in the previous All-Filipino, they were practically a missed 24-second violation away from ending the San Miguel Beer Philippine Cup dynasty.
The winning formula no longer works for TNT. Or at the very least, it’s not as effective. Enter Terrence Jones.
“Malaking tulong talaga siya sa team namin. Kung ano yung kulang samin, parang fit na fit talaga siya eh. Napa-dali na lang yung mga buhay namin sa basketball,” Pogoy said of Jones.
(He’s a big help to our team. What we lack, he fits right in. Our basketball lives are easier with him).
“Yung rebounding tsaka yung pagka-shot blocker niya [malaking tulong]. Naiilang din yun kalaban namin eh, sa rebound naman naco-control namin kasi may malaki na kami, yun naman talaga kulang namin,” Pogoy added.
(His rebounding and his presence as a shot blocker is a huge help).
In 10 games so far, Jones is averaging 14.9 rebounds per game. That may not seem much for an import but he’s never had fewer than 10 in a game and has hit a high 22 rebounds.
His shot blocking has helped TNT shore up its overall defense as well with Jones averaging 2.9 rejections a game. His three best performances are against Columbian (7 blocks), Ginebra (6 blocks), and San Miguel (5 blocks). The last two teams feature perhaps the two best frontlines in the league today by a wide margin.
Aside from his defensive presence, Jones is a force on offense as well, averaging 34.5 points on close to 50 percent shooting. He’s hit over 30 points eight times and over 40 points four times.
Scoring will be a given for a player of his caliber but what sets him apart is his ability to locate open teammates and willingly pass the ball to them.
Jones is good for at least four assists in every game and he’s topped out at 16 dimes so far. In 10 games, he’s rounding up to 7.7 assists per outing which leads all imports, and the whole league actually.
“Talagang willing passer siya, hinahanap din niya talaga yung mga kasama niya. Kumbaga di niya inaako lahat yung scoring load,” forward Troy Rosario said of his new frontcourt tandem in Jones.
(He’s a willing passer. He really tries to find his teammates and he’s not trying to shoulder all the scoring load).
“Kami ready pa rin kami lagi. Syempre yung experience niya sa NBA talagang pinapakita niya dito, natutulungan din niya kami kung saan kami dapat lumugar sa plays kasi advanced na siya eh, kahit di na sabihin ni coach alam na niya dapat gawin,” he added.
(We’re just ready as locals. He’s really showing his NBA experience here, he’s helping us to where we need to be on plays because he’s so advanced he knows what to do even before coach tells us).
Aside from putting up big numbers across the board, there’s one underrated factor about Terrence Jones that has led to him making a positive impact on TNT.
Jones made an effort to be a leader for the KaTropa and his teammates have rallied behind him for sure. The result is in the way they play and the way they win in the Commissioner’s Cup.
“I think it’s come to them [TNT locals] listening and understanding that I have a little experience on what it takes to try to win and be a good teammate,” Jones said of his leadership role with the KaTropa and how it worked out.
“They listened and understood that and we’ve been having fun ever since,” he added.
TNT is full of alpha-level players but Jones’ NBA resume has certainly helped in making them line up behind their import and provide support.
The the KaTropa have been running like a well-oiled machince with that set up.
“Leadership pa lang niya ang laking tulong na samin. As locals, ginagawa lang namin kung ano dapat namin gawin para maka-contribute din and para matulungan din siya,” Rosario said.
(His leadership alone is a big help for us. As locals, we just try to do what we need to do to contribute and to help him out).
“Magaling siya, isa talaga siya mga leader namin ngayon. Talagang nili-lift up niya kami, di lang sa salita pati sa gawa,” Pogoy added.
(He’s great, he’s one of our leaders now. He really lifts us up not just with words but with action as well)
THE LONG ROAD BACK TO THE ASSOCIATION
It would be incredible if TNT ends up having Terrence Jones as a resident import the same way Ginebra has Justin Brownlee or Phoenix with Eugene Phelps or Meralco having Allen Durham.
However, the KaTropa know that their super import still has a good shot of returning to the NBA and they plan on helping him get back there.
“Syempre goal namin makapasok sa playoffs, nagawa na namin yun. Ang susunod na step is next round sa playoffs. Malaking tulong din yun sa kanya kasi yung pangalan niya bumabango ulit,” Rosario said.
(Our goal is to make the playoffs and we did that. Now the next step is to get to the next round of the playoffs. That’s a big help for him to get his name out there again).
“Preparation na rin kasi alam namin na after dito, meron siyang invites sa mga training camps,” he added.
(It’s also good preparation because we know after this, he has some invites to camps).
With TNT at 9-1 and a top-2 seed in the playoffs, the team is certainly favored to win in the Commissioner’s Cup.
And perhaps one of Jones’ best ways to once again get some traction is to put up great numbers for a championship team in a big league like the PBA. There’s a big check mark on the numbers part and while he can’t win a title by his lonesome, Jones has an entire tropa that has his back.
“Lalo na kung mag-champion kami, mabango yung pangalan niya di ba?” Pogoy said.
(If we win the championship, that’s good for his name, right?).
“Marami naman nags-scout diyan, nakikita siya and maganda pinapakita niya. Feel ko [kaya bumalik sa NBA],” he added.
(There’s people that scout him, seeing him and how good he’s been performing. I feel [he can make it back to the NBA]).
Of course, winning a PBA championship does not directly award Jones an NBA roster spot. However, he appreciates that his team backs him up in that regard.
Right now TNT’s super import is just concerned about playing well with his team and winning more games.
“I appreciate it, I wish nothing but the best for all my teammates as well,” Jones said.
“I hope you guys see that while we’re playing, we’re smiling and enjoying one another when anybody scores. It’s just like a family atmosphere,” he added.
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