MIAMI — Derrick Jones Jr. didn’t have to think too far back to recall the last time he dunked.
“Does it have to be a 10-foot court? If not, then I’d say on my son’s Fisher-Price yesterday,” the Miami Heat high-wire forward said Friday on a Zoom media video conference.
“But 10-foot (rim), it would probably be if I dunked in that Charlotte game.”
As in on March 11 at AmericanAirlines Arena, the night the NBA shut down amid the new coronavirus pandemic.
As in when he when he scored on a cutting dunk off a Bam Adebayo assist with 6:27 left in the third quarter of that loss.
“It’s just weird,” the athletic 23 year old said of the void of basketball. “Words can’t explain it. I never felt this before. It’s just weird to me.”
The shutdown came at a particularly meaningful time in Jones’ career, in the wake of drawing national acclaim by winning the dunk contest during All-Star Saturday, then moving into the starting lineup, and now possibly to his next move into free agency, with his contract up at season’s end — whenever that may be.
“I want to be here my whole career,” he said. “If I could have that and we could come to an agreement with the Heat, I’m with it. I just want to be here.”
He spoke from an outside deck at his Miami home.
“You all see the backdrop? I love it here,” he said. “This is beautiful.”
For the Heat, it will have to be a tactical decision in free agency, with ongoing hope of creating enough salary-cap space in the 2021 offseason for a run at a prime free agent, a class that could include Giannis Antetokounmpo.
For Jones, that would make a resumption of the season particularly meaningful, especially if he could show his ability on a playoff stage.
“I’ve just been worried about the season being put back on, that’s all I really care about right now,” he said. “I want to play basketball. It’s what I love to do. I go out there every day and give it 110 percent. That’s just what I want to do.
“I think I can speak for almost everybody, they don’t feel like themselves right now, because they’re not playing basketball. It’s just weird. It’s just a weird time for us. I haven’t been thinking about it at all, free agency hasn’t been on my mind.”
To a degree, he has attempted to clear his mind, resuming an approach he took while with the Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, when playing under current Heat assistant coach Chris Quinn.
“I meditate a little bit,” he said, “because on my two-way year, that was something that helped me out a lot, because me and Coach Quinn and Derrick Walton, we always used to meditate a lot. So that’s just something that helped me then. So I’m trying to bring it back now.”
And, yes, there is more going on than Fisher-Price hoops.
“I have a bike here,” he said. “I have a weight set. I have almost everything at my disposal. So now I do everything that I do in the gym, just in my garage.”
And then a competition begins where he stands as the ultimate veteran.
“I’m cherishing the time that I have right now just to be able to spend with my family, my kids and everything, just being able to be with them every day and all day,” he said.
“It’s good for me right now, especially with my kids young and they’re growing up. I travel a lot on my job, so just this time that I get to be with them, I really just try to spend every moment with them.”
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