By Mark Haynes | Special To The OBSERVER
When you’re a second-round draft pick not named Nikola Jokić, you never know if and when your NBA minutes will come. For Colby Jones, the 34th pick in June’s draft, that moment has arrived with the ankle injury to Sacramento Kings all-star De’Aaron Fox.
Jones, a 6-6 guard, has played about 18 minutes a game since Fox’s injury and has done a little of everything, including a zero plus-minus in a 107-89 loss to the Rockets on Nov. 4.
The Kings were arguably the NBA’s most electrifying team during the 2022-23 season. Mike Brown convincingly won Coach of the Year and Fox made his first All-Star Game, joining Domantas Sabonis in his third appearance. Keegan Murray set a rookie record for three-pointers made in a season, and the Kings statistically had the most outstanding offensive team ever.
Last year’s success made the team the most appealing they’ve been in years. Veterans and former superstars yearned for the opportunity to suit up for the Kings this season, and incoming rookies hoped to be drafted by them. Jones, a 21-year-old out of Xavier, was one, but wound up being selected by the Charlotte Hornets.
Jones and his family were in a bowling alley he reserved when his magical moment happened.
“Draft night was crazy,” Jones said. “I didn’t really know what was happening. I heard Charlotte picked me, so I thought that’s where I was going. But after talking with my agent, I found out I got traded to the Kings.”
After learning he was Sacramento bound, Jones was flush with anticipation. Having the opportunity to play for Brown, sharing the floor with Fox and others was wishful thinking that became reality.
“I’m super excited,” Jones said with a smile. “I feel I fit in well with the younger core, and we complement the veterans. It’s been a great fit, and I look forward to the future.”
The jump to the NBA is always a challenging transition, but with the Kings’ guard rotation being practically set, Jones faces an obstacle he hasn’t encountered: the rookie could spend most of his season on the bench.
But it’s imperative to be ready when you get a chance. Jones’ first real opportunity came Nov. 1 against the Golden State Warriors, a squad full of future Hall of Famers. Fox was out with an ankle injury, and Jones’ number got called. He played 17 minutes while scoring four points on 2-of-4 shooting with three rebounds, a steal and a block. It was a performance his teammates and coaches knew he could deliver, but they gave him a hard time going into the night.
“We were doing a couple of drills at shootaround that morning,” Brown said at practice the next day. “And he messed up the drill. I didn’t say anything, but he had to do it again, and the second time his shoe came off. So Trey [Lyles] goes, ‘He’s nervous!’ Then I go up to him and ask, are you scared? Are you nervous? And he said no.”
After the game against the Warriors, Brown said Jones did OK for a rookie and that he didn’t look scared at all while playing Stephen Curry and company. Meanwhile, Jones isn’t too focused on how often he plays – his main focus is helping the team win.
“I’m just trying to stay mentally focused and mentally ready,” Jones said. “I feel like that’s been the biggest thing for me. You never know when your number will get called, and you have to be ready to produce when that happens. So I’m working hard every day, trying to make an impact in practice or games.”
In Jones’ brief time in Sacramento, he said he has felt welcomed and was greeted instantly by his teammates, coaching staff and front office. Malik Monk was among the first to text him, followed by Fox. Once he arrived, Davion Mitchell took Jones under his wing. Although his teammates are excited about what the rookie can be on the court, they are all overjoyed about having another rookie to assign rookie duties to.
“My rookie duty is to grab Chick-fil-A for the team on road trips,” Jones said with a laugh. “That’s my job, and I’m cool with it.”