Heat's James Jones is 'realistic' on lockout
NORTH MIAMI, Fla. (AP)
A month or so removed from being part of Miami's run to the NBA finals, James Jones already has been in the gym to begin the process of getting ready for next season.
Whether the call back to work is in October or November or later, Jones said he - and the rest of the league's players - will be ready.
The NBA's reigning 3-point shootout champion formally announced his involvement Thursday in a summer camp operated by Florida's Department of Children and Families, although when that event was over talk quickly turned to another matter, the league's lockout and how odd things already seem for Jones in even the earliest part of this offseason.
''It'll be difficult because it's all about building a team, getting with your teammates, getting with your coaches and building consistency,'' Jones told The Associated Press. ''In the absence of that, our players will continue to be pros. That's the privilege of being one of the elite athletes in the world. Regardless of the situation, you've got to remain prepared and be ready for when your number's called.''
Jones' future is doubly cloudy: Not only is he locked out, but he chose to become a free agent last month, which means he might not necessarily be back with the Heat when play resumes.
The league's owners and players did not agree on a new collective bargaining agreement before the most recent one expired June 30, prompting the lockout. Because the sides are billions of dollars apart, there's already talk of worst-case scenarios for the coming season.
''Typically right now guys would be back in the gym preparing for next year, and that's not a possibility because the owners decided that they didn't want us there,'' Jones said. ''It's definitely real, and we're so far apart that it's tough to really see anything besides today. And today they're unrelenting, and they don't want us there. So until they decide they want to engage us, we'll be locked out. And it's tough because we're basketball players and we want to play. And the fans, I'm sure, want to watch us play.''
He said he's not necessarily worried or angry about what looms ahead in labor talks, but acknowledged that he, like all players, needs to be realistic while the sides work out the business of basketball's future.
''They're holding fast to what they want and what they've asked for,'' Jones said, speaking of owners. ''We've made some concessions and agreed to move it in the right direction. But moving in the right direction isn't enough. They want it all.''
Some players already have discussed finding deals with international teams until the lockout is over. Jones isn't thinking about that option - yet.
''I'm an NBA player,'' Jones said. ''But at the same time, basketball is my livelihood. If an opportunity presents itself, I'll go. But my priority is getting a deal done.''
Jones said some informal talks are taking place among players about certain aspects of the next CBA, though nothing substantive seems imminent.
The camp bearing Jones' name will be one of six around the state for foster children, and the swingman who averaged 5.9 points this past season for the Heat said he was honored to be asked to be part of the program. He's a South Florida native, a graduate of the University of Miami and took part in the announcement ceremony Thursday at Florida International University. Jones also spent time growing up in a single-parent home, so he said he can relate to some of the issues the foster children are facing.
Jones said he has wanted to host a camp in Miami for some time.
''Some of these kids just need an external voice or someone to step up and push them,'' Jones said. ''So I said, `Let's find a way to bridge that and give these kids an experience.' And this will be more than about just playing the game.''