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NBA Timberwolves’ Tyus Jones: ‘I’d be Diana Taurasi one day, the next day Sue Bird, the next day Skylar Diggins’

Jones spoke about life on the Minnesota Lynx practice squad. Also in this edition of Hoops Happening: Nike’s “Dream Crazier,” Violet Palmer, and more from the world of women’s hoops!

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Minnesota Timberwolves
Tyus Jones
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

To be the best, you have to learn from the best.

So, what happens when a young basketball upstart learns by competing against of the best basketball players in the world on a practice court while modeling the play of other greats?

For Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Tyus Jones, his experiences as a practice squad player for the Minnesota Lynx would pay dividends in his future NBA career. But, first, he had to survive the likes of Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus on the Minnesota Lynx practice floor.

Jones said:

I was a Lynx fan. At first it was kind of weird being around some of the best players in the world. Being around Lindsay [Whalen] and Maya [Moore] and Seimone [Augustus] and just seeing how they approached the game, it was really cool for me. It was a different experience, something I didn’t know what to expect, but I ended up really liking it.

And, apparently, the Lynx really liked what he had to offer as well, starting with a high basketball I.Q. and the flexibility to morph his game into something resembling the styles of play of some of the best point guards the WNBA has ever seen.

As Julian Andrews stated in the piece for the official Lynx website, the task required Jones to go against his “natural instincts.”

Jones explained what that was like:

Whatever game was coming up they’d usually run through some scouting stuff, so I’d be Diana Taurasi one day, the next day Sue Bird, the next day Skylar Diggins. We’d be running their sets to try and give them a good look and they want you to emulate what they’re going to be doing. If it’s a point guard that’s going to really be looking to distribute that’s what I was doing that day, if it’s a point guard really hunting their shot that’s what I was doing that day.

Oh, and Jones did this as a high school student — a boy among men (the other players on the practice squad during Minnesota’s 2011 championship season) going against women on the Lynx roster.

After four years in the NBA, how does 22-year-old Jones’ game of today compare to Whalen’s at the four-year mark of her WNBA career?

In 2007, Whalen was four years into her tenure with the Connecticut Sun. That season, Whalen averaged 30.6 minutes as a starter in 34 games, recording 13.4 points, 5 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game. She had field goal, three-point and free-throw percentages of 46.8, 20.9 and 78.5 percent, respectively.

Jones has started in just seven games of the 2018-19 NBA season. In those starts, he averaged 35 minutes and 10.6 points, 7.4 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. He recorded field goal, three-point and free-throw percentages of 43, 26.3 and 87.5 percent, respectively.

WNBA: Finals-Los Angeles Sparks at Minnesota Lynx
Four-time WNBA champion Lindsay Whalen
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Whalen would play two more seasons with Sun before signing with the Lynx and returning home to Minnesota to begin the franchise’s dynastic run.


Elsewhere in the world of women’s basketball

“If they want to call you crazy, fine. Show them what crazy can do.”

The 2019 Oscars was a celebration of diversity unlike anything seen in the history of the awards show. Nike debuted an ad during the broadcast featuring plenty of familiar faces from the world of women’s sports and, naturally, it was a hit.

Violet Palmer: “You will be quiet, real soon.”

The first woman to referee an NBA game spoke about the bullying, harassment and disrespect tossed her way early in her career. Violet Palmer’s name lives eternal. The names of the sexist, chauvinist naysayers? Not so much.

Also:

  • On her 36th birthday, 12-year WNBA veteran Monique Currie announced her retirement. Currie last played with the Washington Mystics in 2017-18 and made it all the way to the WNBA Finals. Retirement from basketball doesn’t mean Currie will be sitting around doing nothing, though. She is now employed by Nike and has high hopes of bringing the women’s game into mainstream appeal through the marketing of Nike products.
  • Former WNBA president and CEO Lisa Borders, who departed her position to lead Times Up, resigned abruptly last week after just four months on the job due to allegations of sexual misconduct against her son.
  • Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer announced her decision to take the remainder of the regular season off at the advice of doctors. Stringer, who reached her 1,000th career win this season, is expected to return for the postseason.
  • Charges against Todd Troxel, former assistant coach for the Phoenix Mercury, have been dropped. Troxel was fired following his arrest for misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct against his fiancee and a subsequent investigation by the Phoenix franchise.
  • Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma announced on Tuesday that he would miss a second straight game due to a stomach illness.

We all have something to fight for. Something that calls us to lead. The question is, How will you get it done? -Captain Marvel