INDEPENDENCE: When the Cavaliers released Kevin Jones at the end of training camp, their final words to him were to go to the NBA Development League and keep doing what he had been doing.
It took just five games for Jones to impress the Cavaliers enough to create a roster spot for him, which they did last week when they released Luke Harangody. The team left him with the Canton Charge for a few days after signing him but recalled him Tuesday. He’ll be on the bench and available for the game tonight against the Chicago Bulls, but it’s unlikely he’ll get consistent rotation minutes right away.
Cavs coach Byron Scott said last week that he really didn’t have a spot in his rotation for Jones, who averaged 23.6 points and 12.6 rebounds. He produced four double-doubles in five games and departs the D-League ranked third in both scoring and rebounding.
Scott was impressed with Jones’ first practice Monday but wants to get him a couple of more practices before throwing him into a game situation. The Cavs will practice again Thursday, then they won’t have another practice until Monday.
“I would like to see him with a couple more practices under his belt, see how he handles everything that’s going on,” Scott said. “But I was a little surprised that he played as well as he played [on Tuesday], so maybe he’ll continue to surprise me.”
At 6 feet, 7½ inches, Jones is an undersized forward who might struggle at times to get his shot off — which isn’t exactly helpful on a Cavs team that has suffered more blocked shots than any team in the league. But he has a smooth jumper from 15 to 18 feet and he’s a fierce rebounder. He led the Big East in rebounding last season and he had season highs of 31 points and 16 rebounds in his second game in the D-League.
Jones said his agent, Bill Neff, told him a couple of other teams had already called inquiring about him, which might help explain why the Cavs acted quickly in recalling him after just five games. It was a logical move, since Harangody is recovering from knee surgery and is expected to miss about another month.
Jones conceded that he was a little surprised to be back with the Cavs so quickly after he was part of the last round of roster cuts at the end of training camp.
“I didn’t know how my first couple of games were going to go,” Jones said. “I had real good games and the Cavs saw something in me they thought they could use.”
Jones’ biggest attribute is his ability to rebound. Most scouts across the league agree the one stat that translates best from college to the NBA is rebounding. Scott said that’s because of the poor fundamentals in the NBA.
“Most big guys in the NBA don’t block out,” Scott said. “Everybody tries to outjump you or use their athleticism. If you’re a big guy and you pursue the ball, you’ve got a pretty good chance to get it.”
The Cavs rank 12th in the league in rebounding, thanks mostly to Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson, but they view Jones as a long-term project similar to how they’ve groomed Alonzo Gee.
Gee was signed out of the D-League two seasons ago and worked his way into the starting job at small forward. The Cavs are hopeful they can squeeze the same type of success out of Jones.
“I always kept faith in myself,” Jones said. “I knew my time would land me somewhere. I’m just thankful to be in the position I’m in right now.”
Dion Waiters did not practice Tuesday and remains a game-time against the Bulls. Waiters joined Kyrie Irving on the bench for Monday’s game at Detroit with a sprained ankle, and the Cavs struggled miserably on offense with their top two playmakers sidelined.
The Pistons are one of the worst teams in the league, yet the Cavs fell behind by 22 points in the first half. Scott conceded facing the Bulls, one of the league’s best defensive teams, without Waiters and Irving would be terrifying.
“It’s tarrying thinking about playing the Bulls without Kyrie and him, yeah,” Scott said. “But everybody laces them up the same way. You’ve got to go out there and compete no matter who’s on the floor. That’s the bottom line.”
Scott is leaning toward shaking up the starting lineup if Waiters cannot play.
He started Omri Casspi on Monday and shifted Gee to shooting guard, but the Cavs fell behind 30-17 after the first quarter.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.