Have you ever heard of Changchun in Jilin? What about Benxi in Liaoning province? For the average reader; not much. A few some geography experts might recognize them Chinese cities. But for 2011 NBA champion Dominique Jones; it’s a list opportunities.
It’s the second game of the 2016-2017 CBA season and Jones is just breaking in his new Qingdao Eagles jersey. This is Beijing’s home opener, so there’s a natural buzz in the building. While Jones’ jersey and home team has changed four times in the past four seasons, this is just another routine CBA game for him.
Some players like to get a feel for the game-ball prior to tipoff. More often than not you see players ask the ref to see and touch the game-ball. No problem at all. So Jones approaches the ref about two-minutes before the opening tip to do just that. “Can I see the ball?” asks Jones. The CBA referee looks at him, swipes the ball away and says “NO!”. Jones rolls his eyes and walks towards his basket. In China, somethings never change.
The game is about to start. Two CBA veteran foreign point guards are in their stance ready for an early November CBA showdown. Stephon Marbury is no stranger to the Chinese basketball discussion. He’s cemented himself a new home in Beijing with his bronze statue hoisting the CBA title just outside the South exit of the building. Jones, drafted by Memphis and sent to Dallas for cash in 2010, landed in the right spot at the right time as he was a part of Dallas’ 2011 title run during his rookie year. Plagued by injuries, he bounced around the D-League awaiting an opportunity. Little did he know, the opportunity would eventually come from China.
Jones and the Qingdao Eagles would go on to lose the game after being up 25 points in the third quarter. Teams lose all the time, it’s part of the game. But losing at the final buzzer after being up 25 in the third, that’s like pouring vinegar on an open wound.
Going into a losing team’s dressing room is never easy. The room is quiet. There’s not much going on. Nobody wants to talk. But Jones isn’t your average pro basketball player. Jones takes pride in the profession that is a pro basketball player; both on and off the court. A true professional. He sits slouched over in his chair as sweat pours down his NBA championship tattoo on his neck. After shooting 63 percent on seven of 11 shooting from the floor (50 percent from beyond the arc), Jones says he would give back everyone of his 34 points for the win.
NOTE: It’s very hard to do an interview after a tough road loss. Full credit to Dominique Jones for agreeing to this interview. When asked for five minutes of his time, he agreed without hesitation. A real class act.
For Dominique Jones it’s all about opportunities. Plain and simple. You give him an opportunity and he will deliver.
Let’s flashback to 1999 when Jones was 11-years-old in Lake Wales, Florida. Jones discovered an opportunity of a lifetime, his gifted athletic abilities. Surrounded by a list of bad influences, Jones decided to stay on track and pursue a dream to become a pro basketball player. Now all he needed was an opportunity.
Stan Heath was fired by the University of Arkansas in 2007 and immediately hired by the University of South Florida the same year. Why is this important to Jones? Because Heath heavily recruited Jones and offered him an opportunity to play for the Bulls on a full scholarship. This was an opportunity earned by Jones through hard work and dedication, an opportunity he wasn’t going to pass up. In three seasons at USF, Jones earned an AP All-America Honorable Mention Team award, he was placed on the Wooden Award Finalist List, named CollegeInsider.com BIG EAST Player of the Year, and won the 2009-10 BIG EAST Scoring Title.
This placed Jones on the NBA radar. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban would acquire Jones from the Memphis Grizzlies after being chosen 25th overall in the 2010 NBA Draft. During his rookie season, Jones was a part of the 2011 Mavericks team that took down the “big three” in Miami to win the NBA championship. Jones would act as Lebron James in practice to prepare the team for an intense finals. In 2013, after spending three years in and out of the team’s D-League system, Jones was waived by the Mavericks. But with one opportunity closing, another one opened.
Despite being across the planet, Jones’ next opportunity was from the Liaoning Leopards. The Leopards signed Jones to his first Chinese contract in 2013. Since then, he’s had the opportunity solidify himself as one of the top foreigners in the league. Last season, Jones led the CBA in assists. This season, Jones is averaging 34 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. While his team, the Qingdao Eagles, is not forecasted to win the CBA championship this year, he plays every hard every single night. It’s safe to say Dominique Jones makes the best out of every opportunity.