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Pending free agent Tyus Jones feels right at home with the Wizards

Pending free agent Tyus Jones feels right at home with the Wizards

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 1

Tyus Jones knows how this looks. At 27, he has been around the NBA long enough to know that players in his situation — veterans on expiring contracts who get traded to rebuilding teams — generally don’t stay in one place for long.

Jones is hoping to be the exception.

The day after the Washington Wizards finished the season 15-67, the worst record in franchise history, most of Jones’s teammates moved through their exit interviews speaking in broad strokes about the state of the organization.

But after Washington held on to him at February’s trade deadline, Jones had a more specific situation to address Monday. He and forward Anthony Gill are the two Wizards set to become a free agents, and Jones would like to be back in Washington.

The former Memphis Grizzlies backup point guard, who came to the Wizards over the summer in a three-team trade, has a feeling they like him here, too.

“From the day I was traded, obviously, knowing that I’m on an expiring deal, just being in the league, anyone who pays attention to the NBA, you know what that can mean sometimes. But without saying what that means, that was never the plan from the front office with me,” Jones said. “They’ve said from the beginning, we want you here, the plan is for you to be here long term, and when we get to that bridge, we’ll cross it.”

Jones has made the most of the opportunity to redefine his career. After he spent eight seasons mostly as a backup point guard, the Wizards gave him the chance to anchor the starting lineup, and he provided a young roster with a steadying hand.

He was calm on court, brought perspective to the locker room and notched career highs in points (12) and assists (7.3) per game, field goal percentage (48.9) and three-point field goal percentage (41.4) while maintaining a 7.35 assist-to-turnover ratio, fifth-best in the league among guards. And the four players ahead of him didn’t log anywhere near his 29.3 minutes per game.

“I feel like I’m just at the tip of the iceberg, for sure,” said Jones, who turns 28 on May 10.

Beyond his numbers, Jones feels valued in Washington. He has a voice.

“Tyus is like our chill pill,” Corey Kispert said. “He’s like our anxiety medication.”

When interim coach Brian Keefe took over in late January, Monumental Basketball President Michael Winger and General Manager Will Dawkins agreed to send Jordan Poole to the bench, in an attempt to pull him out of the funk he had lived in for the first two-thirds of the season.

It worked. With the ball in his hands and second-string defenders to plot against, Poole found his mojo and, as Jones sat out the final 16 games of the season because of a back sprain, moved back into the starting lineup as point guard and continued his strong play.

“I was happy for him. I think everyone was happy for him. You could see him playing with a little more joy, his spirit kind of picking back up,” Jones said when asked how Poole’s presence affects how he views his free agency. “… I don’t think it’s just as black and white as putting the ball in his hand and that’s it or taking the ball out of my hand. I think you saw us coexisting.”

The Wizards agree, despite the facts that they are undersized and neither is a particularly talented defender.

Jones, by the way, doesn’t envision a move back to the bench in his future.

“The plan is to be a starter,” he said.

The Wizards own Jones’s Bird rights, meaning they could exceed the salary cap to re-sign him, which also means they have the flexibility to make him a more attractive offer than other teams in a potential sign-and-trade situation that would return precious draft capital.

While they weigh that, Jones made his preference clear Monday.

“Anything can happen,” he said, “but [my family and I] love D.C., we want to be here, and I want to help this team continue to build and move in the right direction.”

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