Jones: Trade to Wolves like a dream come true
By Marcus R. Fuller St. Paul Pioneer Press MINNEAPOLIS -- It was already a crazy atmosphere at 508 Bar and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday night when Tyus Jones found out he was getting traded to the Timberwolves after being drafte...
By Marcus R. Fuller
St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS - It was already a crazy atmosphere at 508 Bar and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday night when Tyus Jones found out he was getting traded to the Timberwolves after being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 24th pick.
But the fans jam packed in the upper level bounced off the walls when Wolves coach Flip Saunders and team owner Glen Taylor walked in to welcome Jones.
“Tyus! Tyus! Tyus!” the fans screamed.
Jones, who went from Apple Valley High school to lead Duke to a national title as a freshman this year, was indeed “Coming Home” like the Skylar Grey song said as it blared in the background that night.
“I always wanted to play for the Timberwolves and be a Timberwolf,” Jones said. “Growing up in Minnesota, this is truly what you dream of as a kid, going to games and watching on TV. To be able to call myself one and put a Timberwolves jersey on is truly a blessing.”
The Wolves traded their two second-round draft picks - Nos. 31 and 36 overall - to the Cavaliers for Jones, who was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four this year after the Blue Devils defeated Wisconsin in the national championship game.
Jones joined former Robbinsdale Cooper star Rashad Vaughn (selected No. 17 by the Milwaukee Bucks) as the first pair of Minnesotans drafted in the first round in the same year.
At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Jones was knocked for his lack of size, athleticism and defensive ability, but his leadership, offensive efficiency and advanced basketball IQ stood out. Saunders called him the best passer in the draft after Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell, who went No. 2 to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Over the past couple months, the Wolves had talked to other NBA teams from No. 14 on down to try to see where Jones could be drafted.
“We talked to Cleveland prior to and they called back with about two minutes on the clock and that’s basically when we cut a deal,” Saunders said. “He is probably the most successful basketball player that has played here in the last 25 to 30 years, maybe since (former Gophers and Boston Celtics great Kevin) McHale.”
Duke center Jahlil Okafor told Saunders before the draft that teaming with Jones in college was the biggest reason he decided to play for the Blue Devils.
Okafor, who was drafted third overall by the Philadelphia 76ers, had a great relationship with Jones dating back to grade school.
So now Jones will have to develop chemistry with another 7-footer with immense potential in Minnesota’s No. 1 pick, Karl-Anthony Towns. They were on the same team at the McDonald’s All-American game last year.
Jones said he’s also excited to work with Wolves starting point guard Ricky Rubio.
“Rubio’s a great point guard,” he said. “I’ll learn the best I can from him and be ready to become a better player.”
While greeting fans at the restaurant Thursday night, Jones grabbed a microphone and talked about having a sense a month ago that he might be joining the Timberwolves.
It wasn’t more than just a gut feeling that now has become a reality.
“I just woke up that day, and I guess it was just God talking to me,” Jones said later on a conference call. “The energy was ecstatic and through the roof. That’s exactly why I decided to come home and have the party. My family and friends mean so much to me. They made me who I am today.”
The Pioneer Press is a media partner of Forum News Service.