USF's Dominique Jones talks about winning NBA title
Former USF guard Dominique Jones hasn't played in an NBA game in four months, but he's had a dream of an NBA experience in the last month, watching from the bench as the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat for an NBA championship, the first won by a former USF player.
We caught up with Jones by phone on Tuesday night and he talked about a number of topics -- the joy of winning an NBA title, his role in simulating Miami star LeBron James in practice for the Mavs and his priorities for the offseason.
Q: What's been the best part of winning an NBA championship with the Mavs?
A: The best part has been the ride. The experience, just learning playoff basketball, even in the regular season learning from the vets and the different things they're doing, watching how Dirk (Nowitzki) works out and how his work ethic is. It gives you an idea of a measuring stick of, if you want to be that caliber of player, how hard you have to work. I had my mindset right and had to wait my time, but as I waited, I learned a lot. It was a good experience.
Q: You were able to watch this team throughout the season. When did you realize it might be an NBA championship squad?
A: When Caron (Butler) went down (in January), we had a stretch of bad games, lost five or six in a row. It didn't really look too good then. Then we got Peja (Stojakovic, in February) and it kind of helped us out. Everything started getting back together. The rotation started kicking in, and everyone was playing good basketball. Portland was an alright series, but we were supposed to beat them. When we swept the Lakers, I just knew for a fact we were on again.
Q: Who has helped you the most of all the veteran players on your team?
A: I would say Caron Butler. Just basically trying to teach me the business of how the NBA works. Even off the court, about how others look at you. Your appearance, the way you present yourself as a professional means a lot. I've been around a lot of the veterans, but out of everybody on the team, I spent the most time with him, I guess because both of us are coming off injuries. We did the same workouts rehabbing, so we've been around each other a lot.
Q: How do you feel physically, coming back from a stress fracture in your foot that sidelined you since February?
A: I feel good. I feel like I could have played the last series, but I'm just waiting for my time. My time is coming. They tell me that over and over and over again. It's hard not playing, but you have to understand sometimes you learn from the sideline. I think I played a major role getting our guys ready with the scouting, being Russell Westbrook and LeBron and stuff like that in practice, getting our guys used to what they'd be seeing in a game. It was a team job from the coaches to the managers to the trainers to the players that don't play to the starters. It was a full team job.
Q: What is it like for you when Rick Carlisle says "I need you to simulate LeBron James in practice"?
A: It was cool because I know how LeBron plays. He can fill a stat sheet up, and that's kind of like what I do. Being a facilitator, then scorer, then get a rebound, just playing a total game. It was easy to adapt to.
Q: What's next for you in the offseason?
A: I'm coming back to Tampa, am going to be working out with my trainer, Terrelle Woody. We're going to be doing a lot. Just getting myself prepared. I feel like I have to have a big summer. This next NBA season will be an important season for me.
Q: I know you didn't get to play as much as you probably would have liked, and you had the injury, but you have to appreciate the good luck of winning an NBA title in your first pro season, right?
A: Me and my religious views, I don't feel like the Lord shows favoritism, but sometimes I feel like he always finds a way to look out for me. Just putting me in different positions, even from college, being able to go to such-and-such school or do this because of a school's name, I went to South Florida. It paid off for me. I felt like I should have gotten drafted earlier, but it happened this way that I got drafted at 25 and went to the Mavs. It was great. I think I learned more not playing on this team than I could learn playing 40 minutes on another team that didn't make the playoffs. I feel very fortunate how everything worked out. I went from first two years of college, no NCAA Tournament, last year, first round NIT to winning an NBA championship.