It was the end of August 2011 when we spoke by phone with then-first-round rookie and first-time champion Dominique Jones from his home in Florida. We talked about weaknesses, workouts, tattoos, Mavs leaders, his two offers to play overseas, why he felt like an important part of a title team and why he said, "I wish that season would’ve gone on forever.''
This weekend, the Dallas Mavericks released DoJo. Here, we reflect on his quotes with some "For The Last Time'' updates:
FISH: It’s a slow time in a lot of ways for the NBA, obviously. But DJ, as a member of a championship team but an individual who wants to contribute even more, I’m sure you are having a full and eventful summer.
DOJO: “I’ve spent most of my time in Florida and most of my time working out – in fact, I just got done with an afternoon-long workout with my trainer, (former University of South Florida staffer) Terrelle Woody. A lot of what we do, we do in Tampa. My dad (Norman) and at South Florida, I got them to paint the NBA 3-point line on the court! Some stuff in the gym with my partner, Rashad Anderson, who played at UConn and now plays overseas. And then it’s a lot of strengthening my core, plyometric things. I want to get my body to be more explosive and so I’m working on stuff I never did before.''
For The Last Time: Physical strength was never DoJo's problem. Scoring and shooting was. In 80 career games with the Mavs, Jones averaged just 3.1 points per game on 37 percent shooting.
FISH: Are there particular basketball ‘weaknesses’ – if that is the right word – that you are also working on? I remember speaking to you early in the season last year when you made the argument that your reputation as somebody who needed to improve as a shooter was inaccurate. But I also know you and Rick Carlisle have done a lot of one-on-one work to be even better …
DOJO: “Oh, I can shoot! But it’s time for me to show it. There are a bunch of little things to work on, all of them adding up to me being able to contribute to the team in lots of little ways. One of those things, specifically, is to become better at spot-up shooting. I would say that is one of my weaknesses. In college, I wasn’t asked to do that because I was the guy with the ball. But it’s something I am confident I can do.’’
For The Last Time: I would say that DoJo's confidence has been erased. And obviously, his level of professionalism has slipped with it.
FISH: When you came out of South Florida, and when you came to Dallas, the word was that you’re game was “Dwyane Wade-like.’’ And DoJo, you yourself didn’t even shy from that. Wasn’t it sort of ironic, then, that when your Mavs played in the NBA Finals, their opponent was Wade’s Miami Heat – and that in practice, you are the guy who ‘portrayed’ Wade?
DOJO: “Yeah, absolutely, and I really do think that some of the things I did in college, in terms of style of play, were like Wade. And then in practice, that’s why I feel like I played my role and made my contributions to be a champion. My job was to keep guys on point. I feel like I played my role, because last year, my role was to help guys get better. So I simulated Wade and sometimes LeBron, too. Drive-and-dish, I can do that.
“And when my time comes, it won’t be a simulation. I’ll do it for real.’’
For The Last Time: DoJo was asked to make the move from being a 2 to being a point guard -- a Wade-like transformation. This year, he averaged nearly nine assists per 36 minutes, but the transformation was never complete enough. He did start four games ... and in a sense, most of those occasions register only as oddities.
FISH: And this is where the lockout comes into play a bit. If not for it, you would be in Las Vegas, participating in the Summer League. ... I hear you might be involved in that Vegas get-together they are working on anyway ... But right now you could not only working toward becoming a starter at the 2, but also maybe getting some work as a point guard, right?
DOJO: “Everybody wants to start. With our situation (regarding him starting next season), I don’t see why not. I know I’ve got a lot to learn. But if you make a list (of the candidates to start at the 2), I’m on the list. I’m not making a big deal of it, or putting pressure on myself about it. Last year was my freshman season. This year is my sophomore season. That’s how I look at it.
“As far as the 1 or the 2, I think I have a great combination (of skills) that can help. Our team isn’t a one-on-one team; most teams have a one-on-one guy but our team plays at a team and passes the ball. I think I can help either way. I know this: As far as learning – and I have lots to learn – I’ve got the greatest point guard in NBA history to teach me. If I’m going to learn how to play some point guard, I’ve got the best teacher ever.’’
For The Last Time: That reference is to Jason Kidd, who is gone ... as DoJo now is. The club waived him over the weekend. And again, the point-guard experiment never took. It was the result of DoJo failing as a shooter ... and it goes down not just as a failure on his part, but on the club's, too.
FISH: You’ve also got a good group of mentors elsewhere on the roster, too …
DOJO: “And those guys are talking to me all the time, all this summer. DeShawn Stevenson is in Orlando. I talk to him a lot. I talk to Caron Butler and Shawn Marion here and there. They all teach me. I’m very fortunate.’’
For The Last Time: There has been little indication that DoJo was failing to follow the leader around here ... until very recently ...
FISH: What lessons is the pupil learning from those teachers? More than just basketball?
DOJO: “Exactly. They take me through what’s worked for them in their careers. How to manage money, the social life, the problems that can come up for players … You know, going down to the D-League was hard. Shawn and Caron and those guys helped me understand that it was OK. And even the way to dress … that might be the biggest lesson. How to look and how to dress!’’
For The Last Time: Forget how to dress. Let's address the other statement. DoJo's level of professionalism reached its limits here, conflicting with the organization when it informed him -- again -- to serve as a Tollway Yo-Yo. His displeasure with yet another Frisco assignment led to his release.
FISH: Really? How so?
DOJO: “Well, I like my tattoos. I just like the art of them. So I have my NBA logo and now I have my new (NBA Larry O’Brien Trophy). I have others, but those are the biggest. But I don’t want anybody to think that if you have a tattoo, it means you are a bad guy or something.
“Same with dressing right. Those guys showed me that you need to understand perception, that you need to dress like a professional when you come to work. The one lesson that stands out most of all is Caron telling me that. Buy some suits. People are watching. Be a professional. How do you carry yourself?
“Overall, I feel like I learned more than any rookie in the whole NBA.’’
For The Last Time: The growth did not continue. And the writing on the wall of the eventuality of this sort of end came to DoJo in in October, when the Mavs opted not to pick up the team option for next season in Jones’ rookie contract. That was a vote of non-confidence.
FISH: Some of the guys have talked about taking the trophy here or there. You haven’t taken it on a hometown tour yet, have you?
DOJO: “No, I think Mark Cuban still has it. He’s probably still sleeping with it. He probably built it its own house out back behind his.’’
For The Last Time: Cuban, I think, has long been a DoJo supporter. Nevertheless, this goes down as another botched draft pick. Yes, hitting on the 25th overall pick is a challenge, and always drafting so late -- a result of a dozen years of success -- makes it an annual challenge. But DoJo's failure looms as a reminder of what must change there.
FISH: There is a perception, understandable, I think, that this was “Dirk’s championship.’’ Do you understand that thinking? Do you agree with it?
DOJO: “Oh, of course. Dirk is The Guy. He’s been here a long time, all the ups and downs, including ’06. This title means so much to him. Of course, it’s Marion, too. And Kidd, it’s his title, too. But Dirk? Dallas has always been his home. So in that way, it’s ‘his championship.’’’
Still, like I say, I had a championship experience. That’s what I tell people, that I was blessed to have a ‘championship experience.’ It’s like an education: nobody will ever be able to take this away from me. I feel like this team is grooming me to be a champion, and last year showed me how. Great coaching, great teammates, great player, great owner. A perfect situation for me.’’
For The Last Time: 'Nobody will ever be able to take this away from me.' It's trite but true. True for Dirk, who likes to say it ... true for DoJo, who will also be able to say it forever.
FISH: DoJo, I think it speaks to your quality as a person that you are able to look at it that way, even with the fact that you didn’t get on the floor the way I know any competitor would want to …
DOJO: “I appreciate all the things it takes. My college struggled to win 20 games and didn’t make the tournament. Winning is hard work. The reason I say it was ‘perfect’ is because I talked to another rookie at the end of the season and he says, ‘I can’t wait for this season to be over.’ I don’t think that way.
“I turned down two offers to play overseas (during this lockout) in Jerusalem and in Germany. No thanks. I’m fine with money. Since I was 5 years old, playing in the NBA was my dream. That’s why the lockout is so hard. I can’t imagine us not having an NBA season. It means so much to so many people. So many people love it. …
“That one guy who said he wanted the season over, that’s not me. What I am saying is, “I wish that season would’ve gone on forever.’’
For The Last Time: That championship season didn't go on forever. And obviously, now, neither does DoJo's Dallas career.