ORLANDO, Fla. — Perry Jones III sat on the bench just before the start of his first game as a pro player and, perhaps for the first time, realized exactly where he was.
Even then, it seemed surreal.
“I was on the bench like ‘I can't believe I'm here,'” Jones said. “That's what I told a couple of my teammates.”
But never was the 28th overall pick nervous. In fact, in his summer league debut Jones put on a dazzling display that left everyone talking about what a steal the Oklahoma City got when he unexpectedly fell into the Thunder's lap on draft night.
With 16 points and eight rebounds in 29 minutes, Jones stood as one of the few bright spots for the Thunder in a 73-65 loss to Boston on Monday at the Orlando Pro Summer League.
And with each point he scored and each rebound he grabbed, Jones quickly began the process of quieting the countless questions that have swirled around him since college.
“Freak athlete,” said Thunder guard Reggie Jackson of Jones. “Freak competitor.
“That whole talk about his motor, I don't know who started that but I believe that was probably a bad rumor. The guy loves to get out there, he loves playing hard. He just tries to get it done, do whatever he can.”
As it turns out, Jones can do a lot … a whole lot.
He supplied points off putbacks and a post-up, from midrange and 3-point range. It was Jones' mix of athleticism and versatility that helped establish him as arguably the best player in the gym on day one.
On one possession, Jones caught Fab Melo, the former Syracuse center and 22nd overall pick, on an isolation on the right wing. Jones sized up the 7-footer before blowing by him for a layup plus the foul. On another possession, Jones simply shot over the top of Melo, knocking in a 15-foot baseline jumper.
That sequence showed just how much of a mismatch Jones can be offensively. He can blow by big men with ease, or simply suck them out and still shoot over them.
On two occasions, Jones also grabbed a defensive rebound and led the break. The first run-out resulted in a jumper by Dwight Buycks, a 6-3 guard.
Typically, that type of transition score is the other way around.
“Perry showed some flashes of a really doggone good player,” said Thunder summer league coach Mark Bryant. “I think he's going to be a pretty good player in this league. He put the ball on the ground a little bit, showed some flashes that he can get to the hole. The young guy has a lot to learn, but he can play. He definitely can play.”
Jones wasn't credited for an assist for the setup to Buycks, something that didn't go unnoticed.
“I had no assists. I was upset,” Jones said. “But I just want to do everything through the flow of the offense. Hopefully I get some more assists.”
Bryant has his reasons to believe they, too, will come.
“He can make some passes,” Bryant said. “You guys haven't really seen him make passes yet. He's a pretty good passer. He's going to be a pretty special player when it's all said and done.”
“I'm not saying he's Lamar Odom yet,” Bryant said, “but he seems like he could be that type of player.”
Remember, in his prime Odom was a double-double machine and a triple-double threat, averaging between 15 and 17 points, along with nine to 10 rebounds and anywhere between three and five assists in his best seasons.
When asked about that comparison, though, Jones modestly, and maybe wisely, shunned such talk.
“I don't know,” he said. “I can't say.”
But versatile, Jones said, is what he wants to be.
“Hopefully you see a lot of that,” Jones said. “But also, it's what the coach wants and what the team needs. If they want me to do those types of things then I'm willing to do it. But I just want to be able to contribute the best way I can. If they don't need me to do any of that then I'm more than fine with it as long as I'm able to help the team.”