PHOENIX SUNS

Suns notebook: Watson praises Derrick Jones Jr. after first career start

Mar 12, 2017, 6:03 PM | Updated: Mar 13, 2017, 11:39 am
Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews (23) is fouled by Phoenix Suns forward Alan Williams (15) as...

Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews (23) is fouled by Phoenix Suns forward Alan Williams (15) as forward Derrick Jones Jr. (10) defends, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Saturday, March 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns were not done making headlines with rotation moves this season.

In Saturday’s 100-98 win over the Dallas Mavericks on the road, Alex Len was ruled out of the game due to a hip injury, and the lineup change would be forwards Marquese Chriss and T.J. Warren moving one spot up to center and power forward, respectively.

That left a spot open at small forward, and it was awarded to rookie Derrick Jones Jr., his first career start.

Jones played a career-high 26 minutes, scoring two points and grabbing seven rebounds, the latter easily topping his previous best of two.

Before Sunday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, head coach Earl Watson spoke highly of Jones and his performance.

“Phenomenal, defensively,” Watson said.

Jones begun the game picking up Mavericks rookie point guard Yogi Ferrell full court, which allowed the Suns to get a better matchup defensively at the other guard spot.

“He allowed Bled to guard (Seth) Curry, which, Curry had a tough first half and a tough game,” Watson said.

“To start a game that way, kind of gives us momentum,” he said of Jones’ fullcourt pressure.

Watson called Jones’ seven rebounds “big.”

Besides Jones starting, another new experience with the rookie was his jumper, taking two in the game after not attempting one since his move to the rotation.

The elbow jumper above is Jones’ bread and butter according to his coach.

“That’s his shot,” Watson said. “Elbow jump shot, two dribbles, elevation, he nails that consistently.”

While Jones has good form on his jumper, as Watson noted, the reason he started in the D-League was the lack of range, shooting 25 percent on 47 attempts in the D-League this season.

“We want him to get more confident shooting threes,” Watson said. “We will just start with the corner threes, he knows that.”

MORE ON BOOKER’S GAME-WINNER

Watson had some additional nuggets to provide following Devin Booker’s game-winner in Dallas.

There was a stoppage when Booker was bringing the ball up, and while the TV crew speculated it was another whistle not from the officials, the problem was actually Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle attempting to call a timeout while Phoenix had the ball and the ref blowing the whistle, forcing a stoppage, according to Watson.

“I’ve never seen that before in basketball, ever,” Watson said.

The plan for Booker to hold the ball just in front of the halfcourt line before the big shot came from Watson’s time as a teammate of the player defending Booker, Wesley Matthews.

“From Wes being my teammate, Wes is really good — he did it against Portland — when you dribble before you go, he’s really good at counting your rhythm, so he’ll count your rhythm, he’ll count your dribbles, and then when you go he’ll strip you,” Watson said.

As seen in the shot, Booker held the ball till around the four-second mark, transitioning into a rapid drive to the basket before performing his spin move to the top of the key for the game-winner.

“It’s very uncommon, just to have the mindset, the confidence and the will,” Watson said of Booker’s knack for game-winners this early in his career.

“He apologized for missing (some last season), we talked about how, he’s only 19, right, he won’t continue to miss those, you have to be in that situation,” Watson said.

“Now, he wants every big shot.”

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