This will come as a shock to many of you, I’m sure, but there are a lot of NBA players who don’t like talking to the media on a daily basis. When things are good and the team is winning, sure, a lot of guys will open up, but it isn’t exactly the default expectation. When things are bad, or the team is struggling, though, you get even less. Guys don’t hang around the locker room during media availability in those situations. If it’s the end of the game, they’re out of there as quick as possible. If it’s before the game, all of sudden their pregame warm-ups are timed perfectly to coincide with the time the media spends there, or the training room is a new popular space.
This is not a sometime-media member complaining. I’m just sort of explaining how it goes. You might have a pregame media availability where the players just aren’t available. Not anyone’s fault.
Except one guy is always available. He’s there, chilling. He’s already warmed up and gotten his shots up. He’s in the arena early and he’s dressed and ready to go. And he’ll talk to you, whether you’re the ESPN beat reporter, or one of the kids from Fear the Sword. And he’ll give you full and complete answers.
James Jones is omnipresent. Before an NBA Finals game last year I watched him discuss the Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary Clinton Democratic presidential primary with nuance and thought that rivaled political discourse you’d find anywhere else. I jokingly asked him if he wanted to Skype into my government classroom to share his views. He said he’d do it and I’m pretty sure he would have if I followed up.
But it’s more than that. He is a constant example of how professionals are supposed to act. He’s a leader for a highly successful team that, until this year, was much less experienced than it might have appeared on paper. He works as hard as anyone on the team. He gives advice. He gives encouragement. He gently scolds even LeBron James if it’s required. Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and Iman Shumpert are still young players, and Kevin Love was light on playoff experience until last season.
The question, as those guys grow up, is whether or not you still need James Jones. Is he a luxury the Cavs can’t afford? The Cavs bench issues caught up with them in the NBA Finals, and no one really thinks of James Jones as a real option for the team to go to. Can you use the 15th roster spot on a player-coach? Is he just there because LeBron wants him to be? Could they go the Dahntay Jones route with James Jones and go without his presence during the regular season?
I don’t know. Are the Cavs better than the Warriors if they upgrade the 15th spot on the bench? Is there an opportunity cost to not having guys who could develop into more? No, on the former, but perhaps yes on the latter. I’d miss James Jones if he wasn’t in the locker room. Who would I talk to? The Cavs don’t ask him to do anything on the court, but they’d miss him too. That might say more about other players on the Cavs than it does about James Jones.