Derrick Jones Jr. snuck in his first three dunks as an NBA player Wednesday during the Suns’ pre-All-Star break finale, but most of his slams have come a mile high while playing in Prescott Valley with the Northern Arizona Suns.
“The air is a little thin up there,” Jones Jr. said on the Suns’ postgame show Wednesday, “but it’s never been a problem for me to jump.”
Confidence comes easily for the soft-spoken Jones, but even for someone who can jump sky high, the NBA Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday will pose a different atmosphere compared to his usual stomping grounds.
Jones will be taking off at sea level at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. Oh, and the backdrop will include a few more NBA stars, a few more celebrities, and a much larger crowd.
“I mean, I’m just embracing it. It’s a great time and I’ma just go out to New Orleans and have a great time. My family is going to be out there so I’m going to put on a show for my family,” he told postgame show hosts Jon Bloom and Eddie House on Wednesday, which happened to be his 20th birthday.
Without getting into specifics, Jones is ready to break out a few new dunks. That will likely be necessary with a field that includes last year’s runner-up, Aaron Gordon of the Magic, the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and the Pacers’ Glenn Robinson III.
“I have a lot of things in store for y’all that y’all haven’t seen in a dunk contest yet,” Jones said. “I mean, a few things are going to be new, probably like three or four are going to be new that I’m thinking about. They say you go to have three or four, but you never know if I go head-to-head with somebody, so I’m’a have to bring a lot more out of my package.
“I’m just going to go out and put on a show like I usually do. I’m going to live with the results. I know there aren’t a lot of people on this planet that do what I do.”
Don’t believe him?
Oddsmakers have Jones as the most likely to upset the favorite, Gordon, despite not being a household name, even for Suns fans.
Fellow Suns rookie Marquese Chriss, quite the aerial artist himself, has known Jones since high school. And for a few years now, he’s been quite aware that Jones’ talents will stack up.
“If he’s not the best dunker, I think he’s top-2 best dunker in the NBA,” Chriss told Bloom and House on Wednesday. “I mean, he’s a show when he jumps up in the air because he hangs up there a while and he does some stuff you don’t think he should be able to do.
“I’ve known him since high school. I think the first thing that I was kind of like, ‘OK, what the hell?’ (was when) he won a dunk contest and he didn’t stretch. He sat at halfcourt, let everybody do their dunks, he got up, he did a 360, between the legs, sat back down.”
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