Terrence Jones made a two-game stop in the NBA D-League for the Houston Rockets.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – This column begins with Terrence Jones only because he is the former University of Kentucky player that you know best in the group of 10 NBA players I plan to discuss.
But there's no reason to pick on Jones simply because of his local ties. This column will also stir discussion on Tobacco Road. Kendall Marshall, the former North Carolina point guard, would earn the opening paragraph there.
A Big East audience? Begin with Jeremy Lamb (Connecticut) and Fab Melo (Syracuse). They're part of the club, too.
Club? What club?
The National Basketball Association Developmental League Club, the land of the Maine Red Claws and Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
Thirty players were selected in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft. Less than two full months into the season, a third – 10 guys – have already been assigned to the D-League.
Seven had at least two seasons of college eligibility remaining. One played four college seasons. Some were pushed beyond the end of the bench because they were drafted by teams with veteran lineups they could not crack. Others have been bad fits or bad performers with bad teams.
Two – Lamb and Marshall – were lottery picks. All 10 have guaranteed contracts and set themselves up for financial freedom. This is no pity party. We all know the reasons why going to the NBA trumps staying in college basketball nearly every time. That's not going to change.
But know this: When a third of the first-round picks have played their way into the D-League by mid-December, it's apparent that getting established in the NBA has never been more difficult. Or that guys are leaving college basketball too soon.
Slowly, the NBA model is becoming more like the baseball model where even top prospects are expected to visit the minor leagues. Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Dion Waiters and a few more can leave early, go to the The League and stay.
Beyond the first 10 picks?
It's become a risky investment – proven by the D-League assignment that Jones, Lamb, Marshall, Melo, Royce White (Iowa State), John Jenkins (Vanderbilt), Jared Cunningham (Oregon State), Tony Wroten (Washington), Miles Plumlee (Duke) and Perry Jones III (Baylor) have all received.
A few used the D-League as a tune-up. Put Terrence Jones on that list.
The Rockets dispatched him to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers at the end of last month. He stayed two games. He scored 45 points. He grabbed 35 rebounds. He returned to Houston.
But Jones' career is a long way from launch mode with the Rockets. He's played eight minutes, all in the same game, in nearly two weeks since he was summoned back from the minors. He is buried behind Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris in Houston's rotation.
It can't be much fun holding a seat as the NBA's version of a walk-on, but Jones has moved to a more encouraging position than Marshall, who was drafted 13th overall by Phoenix, or Melo, taken with the 22nd pick by Boston.
The Suns hope Marshall will eventually replace Steve Nash as the team's point guard. But he's playing in Bakersfield, Calif., where has clanked more than two-thirds of his shots and turned the ball over nearly four times a game.
Then there is the puzzling case of Melo, who has not played a minute for the Celtics. Melo is getting about $1.25 million. This is what Boston is getting:
A 7-foot center who is only the eighth leading scorer and fifth leading rebounder for Maine Red Claws. Ugh.
The Celtics sent him to Maine in mid-November, brought him back to Boston Monday, took a deep breath and returned him to the D-League less than 48 hours later.
There has been nothing fabulous in this NBA debut season for Melo – or for a third of the NBA rookie class.