A dream comes true for Magic rookie DeQuan Jones in loss to Cavs

SportsBasketballOrlando MagicNBACleveland CavaliersJacque VaughnHedo Turkoglu

CINCINNATI — Each October, guys like DeQuan Jones round out NBA rosters. Teams need a few undrafted rookies and journeymen free agents this time of year to ensure they have enough healthy bodies for scrimmages in practice and for preseason exhibitions.

That explains why Jones thought Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn made a mistake when Vaughn told him at shootaround Monday morning to go onto the court with starters Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis and Nik Vucevic.

No mistake.

Hours later, Jones found himself in the Magic starting lineup at shooting guard as the Magic faced the Cleveland Cavaliers at U.S. Bank Arena. The only negative: Orlando lost 114-111 in overtime.

“It was tremendous,” Jones said. “I got out there and my teammates were really supportive, and I just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Jones finished with a modest stat line — seven points and nine rebounds — but he felt delighted to have started an NBA exhibition after he went undrafted out of the University of Miami.

Vaughn explained that he started the 6-foot-8 rookie to see if Jones can guard first-tier NBA players. Vaughn also wanted to play shooting guard J.J. Redick significant minutes, and the best way to do that was to bring Redick in off the bench.

Vaughn wanted to watch the game tape before he evaluated Jones’ performance on defense.

Defense will have to propel Jones onto an NBA roster, because scoring never has been his forte. He averaged just 5.9 points per game as a senior at Miami, but his athleticism and his explosive leaping ability give him the physical potential to excel defensively.

“He’s an energy guy,” Nelson said. “Rebounding, athleticism, slashing — he does a lot. He’s a guy who knows his role and plays well.”

Jones still faces long odds to earn a spot on Orlando’s regular-season roster. Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said he expects to carry 15 players — the maximum allowed under NBA rules — which likely leaves Jones competing with swingman Christian Eyenga, combo forward Justin Harper, point guard Armon Johnson and power forward Josh McRoberts for the final roster spot.

Arron Afflalo will start at shooting guard for the Magic, but he has been sidelined by a left-hamstring strain.

Afflalo is expected to provide Orlando with a tough perimeter defender, and on Monday, the Magic (0-3) would’ve benefitted from some help against the Cavaliers (3-2).

“I think overall we had some lapses on defense,” Vaughn said. “I was not pleased at all with our defensive effort, and we’ll get better.”

Davis scored a game-high 27 points. Redick had 18 points and eight assists. And backup point guard E’Twaun Moore added 15 points and seven assists.

“We have to play better on the defensive side of the ball,” Davis said.

Jones’ night started inauspiciously.

After the public-address announcer inside U.S. Bank Arena called out Jones' name for the announced crowd of 5,219, Jones jogged onto the court and trotted toward referees Dick Bavetta, Tony Brothers and Haywoode Workman to shake their hands just as he used to do in college.

Halfway there, Jones realized that NBA players don’t do that.

Nelson burst into belly laughs and a wide smile.

Welcome to the NBA, rook.

“They gave me a hard time — a really hard time — about that,” Jones said of his teammates, laughing. “In college, that’s the norm. You go out and you shake the refs’ hands. I guess that’s something for the books. That’s something to be remembered by.”

Jones recovered quickly.

He scored on a running left-hander in the early going and collected four rebounds during the first seven minutes of the first quarter.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Jones ended a Magic fastbreak with an acrobatic layup to cut Cleveland’s lead to 94-92. Later, with the score tied 104-104, he forced a traveling call on Alonzo Gee.

They were nice moments — moments, perhaps, to be remembered by.

jbrobbins@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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SportsBasketballOrlando MagicNBACleveland CavaliersJacque VaughnHedo Turkoglu
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