MIAMI – James Jones hopped out of the swimming pool after frolicking for a good half-hour one recent morning, asked for a towel and declared himself set for the day on the cardio-workout front.
Whatever work he does this summer might wind up paying off next winter.
There’s one less elite shooter on the Miami Heat roster these days, after the team decided to designate Mike Miller its amnesty player and freeing itself of what he would have cost in terms of salary-cap space – (nearly $13 million) and luxury-tax payments (around $40 million) over the next two seasons.
That means Jones may have a broader role this coming season, and while even he isn’t sure what will happen, the veteran guard plans to be ready.
“The only expectation I have is that we’ll come into camp motivated, extremely competitive and that whoever plays will have to earn their minutes,” Jones said at a “Learn to swim” event the Heat hosted July 25 for children in downtown Miami. “I know the Heat will look at ways to improve the team. I know guys will look to improve internally. I’m just looking forward to the competition, same as every year, compete and be the best sniper on the team.”
Jones was the NBA’s 3-point champion at its All-Star weekend in 2011 and even Miller, who has since decided to return to the Memphis Grizzlies, said that the Miami native is one of the best shooters he’s ever seen.
And while some things about the Heat approach will certainly change next season, one basic tenet will remain the same: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will try to keep LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh surrounded by shooters. Ray Allen will be one of them and Jones would figure to now be one spot closer to the regular rotation.
“Truth be told, I’m driven if I’m not a staple in the rotation,” Jones said. “Being a reserve and helping the team in any way possible, I’ll do that because that’s my job. I’m always pushing and driving,
trying to reinvent ways to motivate myself because I want to play. And that’s my competitive nature. But I also want to win. There’s a balance you have to strike.”
Jones played in only 38 games this past season, logging more than 10 minutes in just six games and averaging 1.6 points in that extremely limited amount of action. He exercised a $1.5 million player option to return to Miami this coming season and said he’s already been working hard this summer to get ready for a training camp that’s just two months away.
“We’re playing catch-up,” Jones said. “We played deep into the summer. A lot of guys have had time to recover, to re-tool, to refresh and we’re in that stage where right now is the time where the body says, ‘Ah, I could use another two or three weeks of this.’ We don’t have that luxury. We don’t want that luxury. We want to continue to compete and win championships. So we’ll take it, because it’s a fun ride and you only have so long.”
Winning another title obviously won’t come easily to Miami, especially with the way the Eastern Conference figures to be even tougher this coming season.
Chicago will have former MVP Derrick Rose back, Indiana – which took Miami to seven games in this past season’s East finals – should be better and Brooklyn made the biggest splash of all by landing Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics.
And they’ll all be shooting to take down Miami.
Which is fine with Jones.
“It’s going to increase competition,” Jones said. “We love the competition. I think it’s great for the game and it makes it exciting. So if we needed any more external motivation, we have it with all the moves that these teams have made.”