Not long ago, Dahntay Jones was one of the most respected
perimeter defenders in the NBA.
Jones helped the Denver Nuggets reach the Western Conference
finals in 2009, making a name for himself by frustrating New
Orleans’ Chris Paul and Los Angeles’ Kobe Bryant with his effective
and sometimes rough play. It was the main reason Indiana Pacers
president Larry Bird signed him after that season.
After sitting on the bench the first two games against the
Chicago Bulls, Jones again has been called upon to make life
miserable for a superstar. His work against MVP front-runner
Derrick Rose is among the reasons the Pacers have extended the
first-round playoff series.
The Bulls can advance with a victory in Game 5 at the United
Center on Tuesday, but Jones’ defense has helped give the Pacers
In Game 3, Jones played 16 minutes while sharing the job of
defending Rose with rookie Paul George. The Bulls won that game
88-84, but Rose shot 4 for 18 from the field and acknowledged Jones
was a difference maker.
”It changed the game,” Rose said between Games 3 and 4.
”That’s what we don’t want to happen – guys coming off the bench
to change the whole game, and that’s what he did.”
In Game 4, Jones’ minutes increased to 22, and Rose scored 15
points on 6-for-22 shooting in the Pacers’ 89-84 victory. Rose
turned his left ankle in the first quarter of that game and was
slowed, but either way, Indiana’s aggressive defense against Rose
the past two games has thrown Chicago’s offense out of whack.
”I think a lot of it has to do with how they’re trapping
Derrick,” Chicago’s Kyle Korver said. ”We’re not getting into our
sets very quick. It kind of forces us. We see the shot clock’s at
seven or eight, and it’s like we can’t run our whole play now.
We’ve got to get into it a little bit quicker, and that’s something
we’ve talked about a lot.”
Rose will play Tuesday night, and Jones doesn’t expect the
injury to be a factor.
”I expect a full-force Derrick Rose,” he said. ”I don’t
expect anything but his full effort.”
Rose averaged 37.5 points the first two games of the series
while Jones sat on interim coach Frank Vogel’s bench.
For a player with Jones’ reputation as a shutdown defender, it
was hard to watch.
”Very tough, but I had to play my role, trust that Coach has
the right philosophy and be ready when called upon,” Jones said.
”That’s what I was trying to do. I thought he was going to call me
the first few games and he didn’t, so just stay positive and be
ready when he does.”
Jones said Rose offers a unique challenge.
”Derrick Rose is one of the fastest people in the game, so you
have to be ready for him in transition and guard him because he’s
strong going to the basket as well,” he said.
Rose has forced Vogel to adopt a team approach. Jones is
6-foot-6 and a muscular 210 pounds. The 6-8 George has great
leaping ability, long arms and good recovery speed.
”Me and Paul just offer two different looks,” Jones said.
”Constant energy, and just try to wear him down a little bit, make
it tough for him through four quarters instead of just letting him
come to the court and run his offense.”
Vogel has been complimentary of George’s effort despite the
scoring totals in the first two games, saying he made Rose work for
his points and forced him into more turnovers than usual.
Now, George has some much appreciated help.
”Dahntay has been the guy to really put his body on him and
really get him frustrated and wear him down,” George said. ”Now,
he’s a little tired and a little weary. Now, he’s taking 3-point
shots and pull-ups instead of going to the rim. That’s where my
length has been tremendous for me.”
Vogel said Brandon Rush might see some time guarding Rose as
Jones got off to a promising start in 2009, scoring in double
figures in 14 of the team’s first 16 games. His minutes diminished
later on, and he barely played under coach Jim O’Brien earlier this
Jones returned to the rotation when Vogel took over. He played
double-figures minutes just twice under O’Brien, but played 10
minutes in Vogel’s first game, and played at least 10 minutes in
all but two games the rest of the regular season.
Jones averaged 6.3 points per game and shot 47 percent from the
field during the regular season. On Feb. 11, he scored all 19 of
his points in the fourth quarter, and the Pacers pulled out a
116-105 come-from-behind victory over the Minnesota
”It’s just a matter of opportunities,” he said. ”The coaches
have given me a chance to be effective on the offensive end. He
(Vogel) runs plays for me. So, I’m just trying to move the ball and
make the right play and just bring a spark off the bench, whether
it’s defensive or offensive.”