Wednesday, October 28, 2015
A news item made the tiniest of ripples in the NBA this week. The Brooklyn Nets cut Dahntay Jones as they pared their roster down to 15 spots. The cut itself wasn't that big of a surprise. The Nets are going nowhere and decided to keep some young players with upside like Donald Sloan and the-man-who-desperately-needs-a-nickname Willie Reed at the end of their bench, instead of an aging Jones.
What is a big surprise is that Dahntay Jones was still in an NBA camp, two months shy of his 35th birthday. And that Dahntay Jones had career earnings of $18 million from a career that spanned eleven seasons over twelve years. On my all-time "How the hell did these guys stick in the NBA for so long and get themselves paid?" team, he would be competing for a starting backcourt spot with Steve Blake and Alvin Williams.
(Editor's note: Williams had career earnings of $42 million. Blake, who's still theoretically an active player, has career earnings of $35 million.)
(Editor's second note: You may counter that Jones was a first-round pick, but it was the 20th pick in the 2003 Bron Bron draft, and the selections around him included luminaries like Zarko Cabarkapa, Zoran Planinic, Vigo Carpathian and Ndudi Ebi, which I'm pretty sure is pronounced "Nudie boobie". One of those players may be made-up. A picture of Zoran Planinic, ostensibly auditioning for White Men Can't Jump 2 a couple years ago, is below.)
Jones started his college career at Rutgers, then wisely transferred to Duke to avoid the sinkhole that is the Rutgers basketball team. While he did start and get a lot of time at Duke, he was somewhat in the shadows, next to the program's big stars: Battier, Boozer, Dunleavy and Williams.
Jones did get drafted and did bounce around a fair bit since 2003. Most casual NBA fans will vaguely remember Jones' game as that of a defensive stopper with attitude, supporting some decent Grizzlies and Pacers teams. He averaged 20 minutes per game only twice in his career, and averaged 10 ppg only once, while playing feisty defense. But they'll definitely remember him as an asshole, because even when he didn't play toward the end of his career, he did stuff like this:
I love stuff like that. I love love love the less skilled guys being assholes to hang around, doing the dirty work their teammates and coaches want from them.
And I loved Bob Thornton. Not many of you will remember the real #23, who came off the bench for the Knicks, Sixers, Timberwolves and Jazz in the 1980's and early 90's. He was an undersized Caucasian power forward who competed with Eddie Lee Wilkins, Brian Quinnett, Sidney Green and Ken "the Animal" Bannister for minutes in the feeble Knicks frontcourt in the pre-Ewing days. His biggest attribute seemed to be the six fouls he could/would aggressively lay on the other team's frontcourt players. He had no business being in the NBA, but hung on for seven years. He's now an assistant with the Grizzlies. In his first year in the NBA, he averaged 19 minutes, 5 points, 4 rebounds and 3 fouls per game with the Knicks. And he was an asshole. A glorious, underskilled, antagonistic asshole who boxed out with vigor, set pics with elbows up and hacked at the other team's skilled players to teach them a lesson about coming into the lane against them. he was the kinda player that a chubby kid from New Jersey with a great attitude and a terrible vertical leap could relate to. You know, the kinda kid who managed to get himself ejected from little league baseball games twice.
(Editor's note: Thornton had career earnings of $1.1 million.)
(Editor's second note: We have no idea why this paragraph is in this post.)
So let's raise a glass to a not-quite great one who got as much as he could out of his skill set, in an era of overpaid NBA players flaming out after one big contract by the time they hit 30. Let's salute a guy who knew that being a tenacious asshole would give his career legs and maybe help his team win against tough squads, even if meant REALLY REALLY REALLY being an asshole (under the tacit acceptance of his coaching staff for sure).