Jones plays against the Celtics
Bahamian pro player scores five points and pulls down five rebounds
Bahamian Kai Jones is certainly making his case for inclusion in the Charlotte Hornets’ opening day roster, turning in a strong contribution off the bench in the team’s preseason debut for the 2022-2023 National Basketball Association (NBA) season.
Jones converted both of his shot attempts, both dunks, in the Hornets’ 134-93 loss to the defending Eastern Conference Champions Boston Celtics at the TD Garden, in Boston, Massachusetts, on Sunday.
Jones, a 6’10” 221-pound power forward with the Hornets, didn’t play until the fourth quarter on Sunday, but when he did, he reminded everyone just how agile and athletic he was and how impactful he could be. Jones rose up over Celtics’ forward Luka Samanic on both occasions on thunderous dunks just 30 seconds apart in the fourth quarter.
The 21-year-old Bahamian finished with five points, five rebounds and a block in nine and half minutes of play. Jones was 2-for-2 from the floor and 1-for-3 from the charity stripe. He is hoping to have his playing time increased as the preseason goes along, and make enough of an impression to new Head Coach Steve Clifford to possibly be added to the regular rotation of the Hornets for the 2022-2023 season.
Clifford is making his second stint with the team, replacing the fired James Borrego in June.
Jordan Surenkamp, who coached Jones with the Greensboro Swarm, an affiliate of the Hornets, in the NBA G League a season ago, and who also coached the Hornets Summer League team, said he likes what he sees from the Bahamian but his playing time this year will depend on what direction the organization is going in.
“I think it kind of depends on what we’re looking at from an organization standpoint in terms of rotations and things like that,” he said. “In terms of how many minutes and how often, those are still things that are up in the air.”
Second-year forward Jones, the 19th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, is looking for a bigger role with the team this season. Jones spent most of his rookie campaign with the Swarm, averaging 18 points and 10.5 rebounds in 26 games while shooting 62.3 percent from the floor and 29.2 percent from three-point range. In 21 games with the Hornets, he averaged one point and 0.5 rebounds per game in just three minutes per game on the floor. He shot 64.3 percent from the field and hit one of his two three-point attempts.
Jones remains optimistic.
“We’ve talked about the potential of the team,” Jones said about a conversation with other younger players on the Hornets. “The biggest thing for us is always just being workers. We talk about that all the time,
getting your extra in, coming in whenever you can – early morning, late at night – to be the player that you can be. Fulfill your potential.”
On his first dunk against the Celtics on Sunday, Jones rolled to the basket, tapped the ball out on a missed shot attempt, received the ball in the post and then rose up over Samanic for a two-handed dunk. The Hornets were significantly out of the game at that point, trailing 132-88 with 2:52 remaining in the game. About 30 seconds later, Jones rolled to the basket again, got an offensive rebound off another missed shot, and after a pump fake, rose up for another two-handed jam over Samanic.
Jaylen Brown had 24 points and five rebounds to lead the Celtics over the Hornets. Jayson Tatum added 16 points and six rebounds.
The Hornets were led by Kelly Oubre Jr. with 17 points. LaMelo Ball added 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Jones and the Hornets will welcome fellow Bahamian Chavano ‘Buddy’ Hield and the Indiana Pacers to the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Wednesday. That game will get underway at 7 p.m. The only other Bahamian in the NBA, DeAndre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns, will get his preseason underway when the Suns take on the Los Angeles Lakers at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Wednesday. That game will get underway at 10 p.m.