The Trail Blazers emerged victorious from a three-way race in an effort to sign free agent forward Derrick Jones Jr. In an interview with The New York Times contributor Jonathan Abrams, Jones and his agent, Aaron Turner, discussed how the opening night of NBA free agency presented a path to Portland.
According to the story, Jones received offers from the Kings, Timberwolves and Trail Blazers as free agency opened. A return to the Miami Heat was also on the table.
After a brief pitch from the Kings, Jones and Turner spoke with representatives from the Blazers for close to an hour. During that call, Jones explained that a potential pairing with newly-acquired forward Robert Covington could yield positive results on the defensive end.
“If I was to come there, I believe that me and Robert Covington could help the team a whole lot,” Jones said, adding that he hoped to be named defensive player of the year in the future. “On defense, I’m going to be guarding the best players. That’s what I want.”
The Portland call lasted nearly an hour, with Jones engaged and asking questions. He appeared ready to commit in the moment. “By the end of the night, we’ll get back to you,” Turner said, ending the call.
The Blazers also informed Jones and Turner that they were prepared to make similar offers to other players and they would sign the player who agreed to the terms first. It is unclear, given the timeline provided in The New York Times story, if Jones was the first player Portland contacted.
The Trail Blazers had cautioned that they would be talking to other free agents that night and would sign the first who called back agreeing to an offer.
The third and final meeting Jones took was with the Timberwolves. After an appealing offer that detailed the Wolves’ creative player-centric approach, Jones raised concerns about the hierarchy of player touches inside Minnesota’s current roster.
At that point, Jones returned to the Blazers’ offer. According to the story from The New York Times, Jones envisioned an avenue for him carve out a niche inside coach Terry Stotts’ offense.
He returned to the Trail Blazers. Their organization is geared for the playoffs, built around guard cornerstones in the All-Star Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Jones was looking to expand his offensive responsibilities, and he could reduce some of Lillard and McCollum’s offensive burden by bringing the ball up after grabbing a rebound.
Jones and Turner were also inclined to get back to the Blazers quickly after, through other sources, they learned that Portland was serious about exploring MLE-level agreements with other players. Outside of the possibility of the deal slipping away, Jones was sold on the idea of raising his sons in the Portland area. Along with that, he was impressed with the Blazers’ track record of putting players in position to succeed.
The Trail Blazers had inquired about Jones’s sons and detailed the area’s community and educational system, aspects that caught Jones’s attention. They also talked with Wells about how his work with Jones could be incorporated into the team’s program.
After a few tense moments of deliberation, Jones rejoined Turner with his decision.
Once Jones returned to the room, Turner called the Trail Blazers.
“All right, DJ has something to tell you,” he said.
Jones looked down, grinned and said, “I’m coming to Portland.”
Jones played in 59 regular season games with the Heat last season. In those outings, he averaged 8.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
You can read the full story from Abrams at The New York Times.