James Jones finds niche as utility man

Heat swingman James Jones plays one of the most interesting roles in the NBA.

One game he doesn’t even step on the court and watches everything from the bench. The next game he’s a starter and contributes significantly. Jones did not play in the Heat’s final two games of its five-game road trip, but on Tuesday he was a starter, filling in once again for injured star Dwyane Wade.

“Whenever I get an opportunity to play, my teammates and coaches expect me to come in and perform and that’s mind-set going into it,” Jones said during Tuesday’s morning shootaround. “This is a big game against San Antonio. Our team desperately needs some energy and life after a tough road trip.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra calls Jones a relief pitcher but, keeping with the baseball metaphor, Jones really is more like a utility player who can just as effectively fill in as a pinch hitter, second baseman or left fielder. Entering Tuesday, the Heat was 3-0 with Jones as a starter.

Jones was shooting 48.4 percent from three-point range before Tuesday, which represents a significant jump above his career average (40.2). More impressive than his shooting percentage, Jones’ level of professionalism has remained steady despite his difficult role. He said it’s something he wouldn’t have been able to do earlier in his career.

“It has been a three-year process,” Jones said. “Since the day I first got here, I’ve had to adjust the way I prepare; the way I play. And now I’m at a comfort level where regardless of where I’m playing that night — if I’m playing 30 minutes or I’m playing one minute — my mentality is the same.”

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