Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn helped rookie swingman DeQuan Jones fulfill a lifelong dream Monday night when he put Jones in the starting lineup for Orlando's 114-111 exhibition loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Cincinnati. Jones, who went undrafted out of Miami, took to Twitter to say "it's only the beginning" for him:
Turned my dream into a reality tonight. My first start in the NBA. It's only the beginning.— Dequan Jones (@DequanJones5) October 16, 2012
In his first start, Jones led the Magic in minutes (34) and tied for the team lead in rebounds (nine). "It was tremendous," Jones said of the opportunity, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. He earned praise from Vaughn and team leader Jameer Nelson and now stands a decent chance of making the team's opening-day roster. "He's an energy guy," Nelson said of Jones, according to Robbins. "Rebounding, athleticism, slashing--he does a lot. He's a guy who knows his role and plays well."
Jones got the nod at shooting guard ahead of the veteran J.J. Redick because Vaughn wanted "to see if Jones can guard first-tier NBA players," according to Robbins, such as Cavs rookie guard Dion Waiters and veteran swingman C.J. Miles. On the first night of a back-to-back, Vaughn also wanted to keep Redick fresh for Tuesday's game against the Detroit Pistons.
Jones is among three players in Magic camp with non-guaranteed contracts, joining Armon Johnson and Chris Johnson. The Magic have until the start of the regular season to cut five players to bring their roster to the league-maximum of 15, and Jones' performance so far in the preseason isn't making general manager Rob Hennigan's task any easier.
Jones is averaging 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds on 47.4 percent shooting. In his four seasons at Miami (FL), his per-game averages were 4.6 points and 2.4 rebounds. Meanwhile, for the Magic's squad in the Orlando Pro Summer League, Jones posted six points and 4.5 boards. On a per-minute basis, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O'Quinn, and Magnum Rolle were the only Magic players to rebound better than Jones did.