Jones already impressing, still thinking big

Jones already impressing, still thinking big
January 8, 2014, 8:00 am
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(USA Today Images)

Thirty-five games into the Rockets’ season, Terrence Jones has begun to show why he warranted a first-round pick in 2012.

The power forward has started 27 of the Rockets’ 35 games and has become a somewhat unexpected bright spot on a team with two superstars.

“I always think big. I have big goals,” Jones said after Tuesday’s practice. “I want to be a great player so I always think big. I think I’ve played well but I still have a lot of room to improve and get better.”

Jones was the 18th pick out of Kentucky in 2012 but spent his rookie season bouncing up and down from the Rockets’ Developmental League team. He played in just 19 NBA games all last season.

This year?

The second-year player looks like he’s in the NBA to stay.

He’s averaged 10.1 points and 6.8 rebounds in just over 26 minutes per game and has asserted himself as the starting power forward next to All-Star center Dwight Howard.

“Terrence is playing well,” Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. “He’s a young guy and he’s getting to be prone to some ups and downs like young guys are, but he’s getting better all the time. He’s just got to keep on improving.”

Jones is just one of six second-year players in the NBA to average over 10 points and six rebounds per game this season. And, he's one of only three second-year players to average 10 points, six rebounds, one block and one assist per game, along with Anthony Davis and John Henson.

One of the biggest changes for Jones this season has been his increased confidence. The 21-year-old from Portland said he continues to gain more confidence as the season goes on and his play continues to improve.

“This is really like my first year in the league,” Jones said, “so for my first year, it’s going really well.”

Aside from just playing well at the four-spot, Jones has needed to fill in as the team’s backup center often because of knee injuries to Greg Smith and Omer Asik. The 6-9, 252-pounder certainly fits better at the four, but he’s happy to play wherever the Rockets need him. He said what has made the transition better is that McHale lets him play his style, even at the five.

Jones' best game of the season came on Christmas Day, when in front of a national TV audience, he scored 21 points and collected 14 rebounds in a 111-98 win over the Spurs.

Jones said seeing what he’s been able to do in his first full season in the NBA has him excited about his future. He’s also pretty excited about playing with Howard, who is widely considered one of the best centers in the game.

“He’s taught me to play more powerful,” Jones said. “He gets in the paint and is just really powerful and I’m learning from him that way.”

Jones explained that being more powerful doesn’t necessarily mean trying to bulk up in the weight room, it means playing stronger and more forcefully, something he’s trying to learn from Howard.

“My confidence has grown,” Jones said, “and it’s gonna keep growing.”