(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
The Tale of Two Terrence’s continued yesterday, and showcased itself in both halves against Alabama. We saw early on in the game a Terrence Jones who simply looked disinterested in defense, soft drives to the rim, and basically lost in transition. The Crimson Tide exploited Jones’ confusion and chipped away at Kentucky’s lead with him in the game. It is frustrating to watch a pre-season All-American struggle when we know his potential is so much greater. Jones had a plus/minus yesterday of -18. The last time he had a rating that low was his three-game skid heading into the infamous pinky injury. You would have a tough time arguing Jones played anywhere near an acceptable level in the first half.
But, you need to give Jones credit for a couple of things. First, double and sometimes triple teams were coming almost every time he touched the ball. Alabama isolated JaMychal Green with Anthony Davis, but completely swallowed Jones up. It’s hard to get started when you’re constantly swarmed. This brings me to my next point — what a great job Jones did in the second half, finishing the game as the team’s leading scorer. He made free throws, had a couple of huge rebounds late, and showed a “will to win” in the waning minutes. In the second half, Jones played like we all know he can. He finished with 15 points on 4-7 shooting, six boards and two turnovers. For a guy who was being hounded all afternoon by big bodies, that’s a pretty good stat line.
I wonder though, is there any explanation for Jones continuing to be missing in action for a full 40 minutes? We live in a society that is constantly thinking in a “what have you done for me lately” mindset, and lately, Jones has not lived up to his pre-season All-American expectations.
Perhaps it’s his mental game that still needs adjusting. Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have entered the picture and are seriously taking the limelight — maybe Jones wants the stardom to himself? It could be the lingering pain or numbness from the injured pinky. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to play basketball with a handicapped finger. Or maybe we have just begun to expect too much from Terrence Jones altogether. His incredible performances a season ago were just exceptions to the norm? There’s no doubt Jones has talent, but do we demand too much from him? Terrence may not want to be the leader we all expect him to be, he may be content being third- or fourth-best (and on this Kentucky team, that’s still better than most). I’m just trying to pinpoint a cause for the ups and downs we’ve witnessed. Because one game I’m convinced he has shaken off the cobwebs and back in his All-American form, but we have yet to see a sustained effort from him in seemingly forever so it leads minds to wander.
I’m not going to say Terrence Jones the person is soft, but like the team sometimes does, I get the feeling he plays down to his opponents. At times his moves look too flowery – when he should just smash it up the middle he makes unnecessary decisions in the post, or tries for too much finesse. He’ll even look bored without touching the ball. You sometimes see him fall into a lull, prompting Calipari to quickly sit him down. You can’t get into a game rhythm or flow like that. Jones needs to take it upon himself to get in a position to succeed, not look out of sorts when things aren’t going exactly his way.
Terrence Jones is vital in the success of this team, that’s why I’m so critical, but it’s constructive. No one is perfect, and you could point out flaws in every single player on this team. (The fortunate thing for Kentucky is the list of flaws is dramatically shorter than most teams’). But I expect so much from Jones, so maybe I’m just frustrating myself. Kentucky is excellent right now, but they will become other-worldly with him in full-force. I want him to be so good teams are terrified just watching film. I want him to dunk so hard he shatters the glass. I want Anthony Davis to back away from trying to block his shots in practice. Terrence Jones has the potential to be so freaking good; I just want it so badly to happen.
I’m not sure what to make of his overall performance yesterday. Is it the first half Terrence Jones or the second half a Terrence Jones that we’ll see take the floor first in Athens on Tuesday night? I still believe strongly that he will be able to be “back” to his All-American hopes sooner than later. Not to say he won’t have a good game or two between then, but I’m holding out hope that Mount Jones will erupt when we need it most.