Bahamian experiencing increased playing time on the court
Bahamian Kai Jones has settled into the regular rotation for the Charlotte Hornets, seeing extended minutes over the past month of the season.
During that time, the second-year forward has played the most minutes of his career for the Hornets. After being taken with the 19th overall pick on the 2021 National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft, Jones entered his rookie season with high hopes, but experienced limited minutes on the floor.
This season, the Bahamian is averaging 10.1 minutes per game after just three minutes per game in his rookie season. In his last 11 games, Jones has averaged 14.8 minutes per game.
As a result of increased minutes, his production level on the floor has gone up. He is still looking for his first double-digit scoring game of his career, but remains confident in his ability and knows that the sky is the limit.
In a recent interview, 21-year-old Jones said it’s just a matter of showing up on the court and doing what he knows he is capable of doing. He has been plugged into the center spot as well as both forward positions during the past month of the season.
“It’s not challenging at all,” he told the Charlotte Observer. “We go over it every day in practice so it’s just translating it from practice to the game. I know that coach will be watching, so just showing him that I know what I’m doing on the court when we practice to give him the trust in me when the game time comes. So, it’s just being consistent with that.”
The action on the court in his most recent games has been the most important stretch of Jones’ young career, but the Hornets has struggled as a team, losing eight straight and nine out of 10.
Jones had a season-high 28 minutes against the Minnesota Timberwolves on November 25. Since then, he has experienced double-digit minutes in nine out of 10 games. Against the Timberwolves, Jones scored a career-high nine points on 3-for-5 shooting from the field and had his first double-digit rebound game of his career. He tallied 12 rebounds and also had a block. Three nights later against the Boston Celtics, he matched that career-high in points on 4-for-11 shooting from the field including knocking down one out of three attempts from behind the three-point line.
Jones hasn’t scored more than six points since but has been consistent shooting percentage wise, going 50 percent or better from the field in six out of nine games.
The Bahamian player is maturing into an everyday player for the Hornets. It shows that Hornets’ Head Coach Steve Clifford has confidence in his ability.
“Coach told me, ‘Kai you’ve just got to show me the consistency in practice.’ So, it shows me he’s a man of his word, and I can trust him. It gives me that trust in coach just like he’s trusting in me. It makes the relationship more genuine because we are just being real about what we are doing here. So that’s the good part of it. Hopefully, we can continue to take those strides in the relationship and that will translate onto the court and make us a better team.”
So far this season, Jones has appeared in 21 games, already matching the output from last season when he spilt time between the big league Hornets and their NBA G League affiliate Greensboro Swarm. He is averaging 3.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game this season while shooting 49.1 percent from the floor and 72.7 percent from the free throw line. Jones has knocked down three three-pointers in 11 attempts this season.
As a team, the Hornets are struggling, losing eight straight and nine of their last 10 games. They are dead last in the Eastern Conference of the NBA with a 7-23 win/loss record.
Jones and the Hornets faced the Sacramento Kings at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California, last night, but the result of that game was unavailable up to press time.