Perry Jones III sought out Scott Brooks just before taking the court for pregame warm-ups on Monday night at Detroit.
The rookie forward wanted to ask his coach for his counsel.
“I wanted to ask him how come in the preseason my rhythm came to me like it did but now it's hard for me to find it out here,” Jones said.
But before Jones could ask, Brooks knew the issue and already was prepared to address it.
“I didn't even have to say nothing,” Jones said. “He already knew what I was going to ask. He told me before I even had a chance to ask him.”
Jones, the 28th overall pick out of Baylor, has appeared in exactly half of the Thunder's first eight games. He's never sure when his next opportunity will be.
That's partly why, after an encouraging preseason, Jones has gotten off to a slow start in the games that matter. He's averaging just 0.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.5 assists. He's made only one of seven shots, a 14.3 percent clip, and turned it over three times.
“In defense of him, it's nearly impossible to play consistently when you don't have consistent minutes,” Brooks said of Jones, who has averaged just 8.3 minutes. “And I told him that. Just go out there and play hard, play with energy and have some fun out there because your minutes are going to be inconsistent.”
A lack of production, however, might be the least of Jones' concerns at this point. Like most rookies, he's looked unsure of himself, at times appearing out of the loop on the court if not downright disengaged. There have been moments in which Jones has displayed his versatility and naiveté on the same sequence.
In one game, he successfully brought up the ball on a fast break but then strangely played a panicky game of hot potato with it immediately upon crossing halfcourt, looking for anybody to pass off to. In another game, Jones used his imposing 6-foot-10 inch frame to make himself a big target on the left block but then looked unsure of himself on the catch and missed an awkward layup attempt after appearing to get away with a traveling violation.
Jones admitted that the inconsistency has been a tough adjustment and conceded that he's not as comfortable now as he was in the preseason, when he averaged 9.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 21.3 minutes.
“It's just a lot harder because you don't know when you're going to get in, if you're going to get in,” Jones said. “It's a lot harder for me to sit down and wait and wonder when I'm going to get in. It's real hard to find a rhythm that way.
“It's probably one of the most difficult things that can be in this league. It's the highest level, and if you don't have a rhythm you're not going to produce.”
For a player like Jones, however, the correct counter is not necessarily as simple as being more aggressive. Jones fancies himself on fitting in, not forcing the issue, and should he begin trying to press, it could disrupt everything he naturally does well.
“When you've only got a few minutes, you don't want to be so aggressive that you don't play within your own limits,” Brooks said. “And he's a flow type of player. He likes to play in the flow. He's a team player. He's not a guy that's going to try to get seven shots in 10 trips down the court.”
For now, Jones said the plan is to take the advice of his coach.
“The best thing I can do is control my effort,” Jones said. “If I play with a lot of effort, the rest will come eventually. That's how I see it. Just control my effort and play with a lot of energy, especially on the defensive end, and things on the offensive end will come later.”
Brooks knows it's only a matter of time. But he also insists Jones hasn't been bad in the interim.
“He's done a great job. We love what he does,” Brooks said “I just told him to go out there and play hard. I'm not worried about him making shots. Sure, I would like to have him making shots and I'm sure he would like to make shots. But it's really about his energy. And I can't complain about his energy. Every time we throw him in there he's given us good energy.”
Thunder vs. Grizzlies
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena
TV: FSOK (Cox 37, HD Ch. 722); ESPN (Cox 29, HD Ch. 720)
Radio: WWLS-FM 98.1, WWLS-AM 640
Three things to know
* The Thunder and Grizzlies are both on league-best five-game winning streaks. Memphis has won by an average margin of 12.6 points. Oklahoma City has won by an average margin of 10.8 points during its streak.
* The Thunder went 3-1 against the Grizzlies last season to move to 9-6 against Memphis in the Oklahoma City era.
* The Grizzlies rank in the top 10 in average points (100.7), rebounds (44.5), assists (22.8) and points allowed (91.7).