Heat Vs. Bulls: James Jones On Beating Boston, Why This Year has been “One of the most gratifying runs of my career.”May 13, 2011 – 6:15 am by Michael Bean
The Eastern Conference Finals in this year’s NBA Finals are set. The Chicago Bulls easily dismissed of the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night, and in the process perhaps proves to some folks why they finished the 2010-2011 NBA season with the best record in the East. But despite their regular season exploits and looking stout in their first two series aside from a lone misstep at home in Game 1 against Atlanta, I imagine that Vegas has the Heat listed as favorites, and I doubt you’ll find too many columnists who are willing to go on the record picking against the Heat. Some perhaps. Someone’s gotta do it. But with the way LeBron James, Dywayne Wade, and the Miami Heat supporting performed in their semifinals series win over Boston, anyone in their right mind should think twice about rolling the dice for a low percentage ‘I told you so moment.’ Some will though, and they’ll cite Derek Rose as being a neutralizing factor in this particular matchup with Miami. Hard to argue admittedly.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll admit I’m somewhat of a hater. But the following interview with James Jones has me questioning my hate. After listening to them, I realize it may be just that. See, like gazillions of other folks, I dismissed Miami as a team that was impossible to root for. Obviously LeBron and Wade left plenty to be desired with how they handled things this offseason, and on the court, their bench just seemed to thin to really be considered legit contenders. There’s no denying that the Heat need to get deeper in the future, but after hearing James Jones, Miami’s primary spot-up complimentary deep threat, I’m wondering if this Heat squad is a lot more tight knit and easy to respect than we’ve given them credit for. I won’t be cheering for them still, but were they to win it all, I don’t think I would be quite as disgusted as I was convinced I would be had you asked me just a month or two ago. They’re doing something right beyond just relying on me-first, petulant superstars.
Jones joined WQAM in Miami to talk about Wednesday night’s series-clinching win over the Boston Celtics, his good shooting in Game 1 being an important factor in how Boston defended the Heat for the remainder of the series, his critical momentum-building three in Game 5 Wednesday night with Miami down by five, LeBron’s ridiculous late-game heroics to seal the game, how the Heat have full faith in James and Wade to take big shots wherever on the court knowing that even though they may be most effective going to the holes that they’re still clutch shot makers to be trusted to drain a deep shot at any given moment, the criticism the Heat have been receiving for how they celebrated after winning the series over Boston, why he thinks the Heat would have been criticized just as much had they not shown any demonstrable emotion after taking down Boston, and how he’s having the time of his life being a part of this journey with the Heat.
On his good shooting opened in Game 1 opened things for the Heat scorers throughout the remainder of the series:
“Well we talked about that. We knew after the first game that Boston was going to try switch things up. Their strategy had been to try to compress the lane and make sure LeBron and Wade couldn’t get to the basket and get easy shots. And in the first game I made them pay. After that they started to pay more attention to me so we tweaked our offensive schemes and we attacked more, and you saw they had more freedom and space in the paint to maneuver. That’s my job. My job is not to score 30 points every night; my job is to make sure teams respect my shooting ability and give those guys room to operate. And when they do have that you see the miraculous performances like you saw last night.”
One his huge three late in Game 5 when the Heat were trailing by five points:
“Well, a couple of possessions before that, LeBron found me in transition…actually, he missed me on a pass where he was fouled and I couldn’t get the shot off. So he tried to make up for it and get me a look in transition on the run. And I just shot it and didn’t really get a good look — Ray Allen contested and closed out. When I was subbed out the coaches came to me and said ‘hey, they’re going to leave you and make a mistake. When they make that mistake, make them pay.’ And literally a couple minutes after that, me and LeBron were on the wing, and he’s pushing and I see Nene Kristic is matched up with me because we’re going small, and we just made eye-contact. He knew I was running for the three; you know, I’m not going for layups, I’m not looking to put the ball on the floor. At that point in time I was tracking and trying to find a good open look. That was my first clean look of the night and I made it. After that you could feel the energy in the building, you could see the guys — ‘finally, finally, we finally got something to go, we finally made a shot, we finally infused some energy.’ And after that, those guys were just amazing.”
If he cringed when LeBron pulled up for a long three with the score tied late in the game instead of driving:
“No, no problem. You know, Dwyane and LeBron, we joke with those guys all the time, the shooters, we joke with them that they’re not pure shooters. But they’re shot makers. And in that situation, we’re all thinking LeBron drive. I know the defense is loading up and thinking LeBron drive. But we know in the big moment he makes big shots. It doesn’t matter, I’ve seen LeBron and D-Wade take and make shots seven feet behind the three-point line. So when they’re in their zone and are focused and locked in, there’s no one that can stop them from executing from anywhere on the floor. And in that moment LeBron just came up with two of the biggest shots of his career and definitely of this franchise.”
If he would have gotten hell from his teammates had he missed a big shot like that down the stretch instead of looking to one of the team’s stars to lead the way in big spots like that:
“No, no, not at all. That’s a tough situation to be in to get 2, 3, maybe 4 shots if you’re lucky a night and make them all in the big moments. But we’ve been prepped for that. I have to tell people all the time — I know coach Spoelstra took a lot of flack and heat during the season for pulling guys in and out and putting guys in ice cold where you have to come in and be a part of a key run. But I think it prepped us for the playoffs and that’s why guys like myself, Mario Chalmers, they’re comfortable going and making these shots in these tough situations.”
His thoughts on Celtics players and media from Boston and across the country criticizing the Heat for how they celebrated after winning a semifinal series:
“Well we understand that regardless of what we do, it will always be under a microscope and people will always have something to say. If we don’t celebrate then they say ”oh, they’re not taking it serious like we expected or we’re arrogant.’ If we celebrate like nothing’s given during this playoff run – it’s a process, we have to take steps each round and understand and appreciate that this isn’t something that’s given to us, we’re not entitled to it, we have to work for it. So when guys show that we’re excited, and that the energy and effort is paying off, and we’re celebrating with our teammates and fans — when we do that they say it’s excessive. The way I look at it is we don’t expect anything; we’re chasing a championship, but we don’t say that’s someone’s going to hand it to us, so we don’t take it for granted. So when we show that we’re not taking it for granted, and enjoying it and living in the moment we take flack anyway. So it’s a lose-lose situation.”
On what his contractual status is with the Heat after this season:
“I’m under contract for next year. I have a player option for next year and that will take care of itself in the offseason. But I’m a Heat man. I’m Heater. This has been one of the best and most gratifying runs of my career. To do it here at home with everything I’ve been through, especially with the injuries, it only makes this experience so much sweeter.”