Perry Jones had to get back to having fun.
So said Thunder assistant/summer league coach Darko Rajakovic.
“The first couple of games I was putting a lot of pressure on myself, telling myself that I have to do well,” said Jones. “And Darko talked to me before (the last) game and he told me that I need to just smile a little more. Just have fun out there. I’m doing something I love to do. Just have fun. Don’t put a lot of pressure on myself. And I took what he said and I ran with it.”
The advice helped lead to Jones assembling his best game in the Thunder’s Orlando Pro Summer League finale on Friday. Jones scored a team-high 20 points in the Thunder’s 103-98 win over Miami. He made seven of 11 shots and four of his six 3-point attempts. He added a game-high eight rebounds.
“I felt like I was having fun out there,” Jones said. “A lot of things came to me in the flow of the offense. So I appreciate Darko for what he was telling me and getting my head in the game.”
Jones raised eyebrows throughout the week with how much his 3-point shot has improved. In four games, Jones made nine of 19 3-pointers (47.4 percent).
“All the coaching staff,” Jones said when asked what he attributes his improvement to. “Working with me every day in the morning, every day in the afternoon after practice, whenever they can just working with me trying to get me comfortable shooting the 3-ball. On the move, on the catch, off the dribble, everything. It was just continuous work every day, and just being able to carry it over to the game shows me that my hard work is showing itself.”
Jones showed great growth as a 3-point shooter in his second season, connecting on 36.1 percent from that distance. He enjoyed his most success from the corners, but throughout this week he displayed improvement from the top of the arc as well.
“That’s a spot that I usually didn’t practice from,” Jones said. “But lately it’s been everywhere.”
And Jones said he’s now as comfortable as he’s ever been letting long-range shots fly.
“If I feel like I’m open, I’m going to call for it,” Jones said. “If we’re in transition and I’m bringing the ball up and I feel the man is to far back I’m going to let it go. That’s how comfortable they push me to be.”
Josh Huestis, the 29th overall pick, didn’t stand out in this week’s summer league. But he looked more comfortable as the week went on.
Appearing in four games, starting one, Huestis averaged eight points and 2.3 rebounds. He shot 42.9 percent.
“Obviously there are things that I’ve got to go back and work on. Watch film and continue to try to get better,” he said. “But I think in terms of my first week, I’m happy. I think it’s a really good learning experience for me and I’m looking forward to going and getting better.”
Jeremy Lamb and Steven Adams did not play in the final game. … The Thunder made its first 11 shots. … The Thunder returned to Oklahoma City following the game. Many players said they will remain in town throughout the summer to continue to work with the coaching staff.