Derrick Jones Jr., an undrafted rookie with the Suns, has spent most of the season in the D-League and has played a total of 24 minutes in the NBA.
In just one night this weekend in New Orleans, not only will Jones Jr. receive more than 24 minutes of court time, but also his appearance will be aired around the world. On Saturday night, he’s one of the four participants—along with Aaron Gordon, DeAndre Jordan and Glenn Robinson III—in the All-Star dunk contest.
Catching up with the NBPA this week, Jones Jr., who celebrated his 20th birthday on Wednesday, chimed in on All-Star Weekend and his rookie season.
NBPA: What was your reaction when you first got the news that you were heading to All-Star Weekend?
Derrick Jones Jr.: I couldn’t wait to be out there. It’s All-Star Weekend and I always wanted to be in the dunk contest. And now that I’m in it, I’m very happy.
NBPA: What’s your mindset going into New Orleans?
DJJ: I’m excited just to go out and have fun and just live it up. I’m an undrafted rookie being invited to All-Star Weekend, so it’s just all so surreal. I’m happy for it.
NBPA: Have you had a chance to experience the city before?
DJJ: Nah, not really. I’ve got an old teammate from college that’s actually out in New Orleans for college right now, [Jordan Cornish, a UNLV transfer at Tulane]. So I’m going to get to talk to him for a little bit, see his family.
NBPA: What’s your favorite dunk contest through the years?
DJJ: The dunk contest in 2000 when Vince Carter won it—when he punched the 360 windmill in.
NBPA: How would you describe your style of dunking?
DJJ: I’m just a flashy dunker. Whatever tricks I can do in the air, I’m going to do them.
NBPA: How does your creative mind work when thinking of dunks?
DJJ: Honestly, I’ve been practicing a little bit, but I dunk a lot. So I just go out and just do everything that I already know how to do, and have fun.
NBPA: Have you involved your Suns teammates in the preparation?
DJJ: For sure. I asked a few of my teammates to be a part of my dunks—the ones that are going out there in New Orleans, [Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss].
NBPA: Do you think you can top last year’s historic finish between Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine?
DJJ: Oh yeah, for sure. The dunks they did, I did a few years ago. So I’m not worried about it.
NBPA: Besides the dunk contest, what else are you excited about with All-Star Weekend?
DJJ: I’m just excited to watch my teammates Marquese Chriss and Devin Booker in the [Rising Stars Challenge], and I’m excited to watch Devin Booker in the Skills Challenge.
NBPA: What’s been your motivation since going undrafted last year?
DJJ: Just go out every day and hoop. There’s nothing for me that’s guaranteed, so I want to get that guaranteed contract. The contract I have right now—I’m blessed for it and I’m thankful and it’s helping my family out a lot—but it’s not what I want, it’s not my goal. And I want a lot more. Once you get a little taste, you always want a lot more. So that’s my goal—just to go out and get a whole lot more.
NBPA: With the Suns, what has been your focus through the first half of the season?
DJJ: Just going out every day and participating in practice, giving it my all and just living with the results. As long as I give out 110 percent, and the coaches know that I’m doing that, then there’s nothing else I can do, but live with the results.
NBPA: What are you learning most about the NBA lifestyle?
DJJ: You actually have to take care of your body a whole lot more than college, because you have back to backs and you just got to go from city to city, hotel to hotel. And you’re barely at your own place until the offseason really. So you’ve just got to go out there and just take care of your body, make sure you’re icing your legs and make sure everything is fine, so that you can be ready for the next game.
NBPA: What would be a successful year for you?
DJJ: Just this offseason, I’m going to make sure I get my body right and get a lot stronger, kill summer league with my teammates and have the coaches see that I’ve improved a whole lot. Then I can get put in the game and not be a liability. They’re going to actually have faith in me.