The Dallas Mavericks assigned Josh Green and Moses Brown to the Texas Legends for a game on November 13, 2021, against the Birmingham Squadron. It seemed like a great opportunity to showcase some of the rising stars with the franchise, so I ventured out to Frisco to see the future.
Comerica Center was poppin’ that night because a handful of Mavs players were in attendance to watch their friends. Luka Doncic was there, along with Tim Hardaway, Jr., Jalen Brunson, Boban Marjanovic and Maxi Kleber. Both assignment players put up big stat lines, but I kept finding myself enamored by the play of Carlik Jones.
I followed his short stint with the Mavs during NBA Summer League and pre-season games, but watching him play more minutes at the G-League Level was something to see.
The 6-1 guard is one of the top players in the league right now, averaging a respectable 26.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game right now. Oh, he’s also shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor. It’s clear that Jones, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, is looking for an opportunity to play in the NBA.
Jones is certainly turning heads and he’s led the Legends to a 6-2 record entering Thursday night’s tilt against the Austin Spurs (3-5).
“NBA roster, that’s the goal and I want nothing short of it,” Jones matter-of-factly told me. “That’s where I plan to be.”
THE BACK STORY
Carlik Jones grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and at birth was diagnosed with a brain condition. In a story shared last year, he explained that he couldn’t play competitive sports because a blow to the head could cause serious damage long term.
In the story, Jones’ father, Carl, said the family did a lot of praying and research.
“We made extra sure that the doctors agreed it was safe for him to play sports, and that happened around second grade. From there, he has been playing basketball and football and he has always been trying to prove people wrong.”
Most of all, Jones was driven to be a winner.
The now 23-year-old dazzled at Aiken High School where he averaged 22.3 points and six assists per game. He signed with Radford University to continue his playing career and education.
“What stood out to me most would probably be the coaching staff,” said Jones. “It’s just how they welcomed me, how much they watched me play, and their interest level in me. They also cared about who I was outside a basketball player.”
He was a redshirt his first year at Radford and then was inserted in the starting lineup that next season. He averaged nearly 12 points per game and 4 rebounds and 3 assists. His numbers caught the attention of the entire conference and Jones was named 2018 Big South Freshman of the Year. He was also named honorable mention All-Big South and named to the Big South All-Freshman team.
Two of Jones’ most memorable moments were making a buzzer-beating three against Liberty in the Big South Championship and Radford beating LIU Brooklyn, 71-61, in a ’first four’ game which was Radford’s first NCAA tournament win in school history.
During his redshirt sophomore season, Jones was named First Team All-Big South after averaging 15.7 points, 5.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds. He was second in the Big South in assists per game, second in assist/turnover ratio (2.3), second in steals per game (1.7) and tied for fourth in field goal percentage (.463). He finished with 181 assists, which is the second-most in a single season in Radford history.
Jones was selected as the Big South Conference Player of the Year in his redshirt junior season and named First Team All-Big South. He became the fourth player in Radford men’s basketball history to be named Big South Conference Player of the Year after averaging 20 points, 5.5 assist, and 5.1 rebounds per game as a junior. Jones had the opportunity to transfer to another school and play right away since he was a redshirt his true freshman year while retaining a year of eligibility, he decided to become a grad transfer and look to play on a bigger platform.
“I accomplished everything I could at Radford,” he shared, on making his eventual transfer to Louisville. “I just felt like I had to make the best decision for me and the best decision for my collegiate career. The process was very overwhelming, it was new because I wasn’t highly recruited like that out of high school.”
A FRESH START AT LOUISVILLE
Jones was held in high regard when he put his name in the transfer portal and ultimately decided to choose University of Louisville.
He played 19 games with the Cardinals before the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the globe. He finished with impressive numbers, averaging nearly 17 points, five rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Jones finished his NCAA career ranked No. 12 in career assists with 554. He also finished his collegiate career 15th in the nation among active career scorers with 1,871 points combined from Radford and Louisville.
He was named First-team All-ACC pick and finished second (tied) for ACC Conference Player of the Year.
Jones was ready for the next level – only this time, it was completely out of his control.
“The process was also was a little different,” Jones explained. “It was a difficult decision. There are some good agents and there are some bad agents. You have to find out which one is the best for you. I signed with Duncan Lloyd with Overtime Sports. It was a great feeling once I signed, it was the best feeling just to be living out your dream and some of your goals. It was huge, blessed to experience it.”
THE 2021 NBA DRAFT
During the 2021 NBA Draft, Jones sat with his family and hoped to hear his named called. He sat there for four hours and 60 picks. It was frustrating in the moment, but it only added fuel that he now uses in the G League. Many emotions went through his head, but one stood out.
“Frustration, just because I feel like I showed up to every obstacle. Honestly, I felt like I have been slept on my whole life. I feel like I have been proving people wrong since high school. I perform and show up. To not get drafted and hear my name called was frustrating. At the end of the night, I knew the road has never been easy for me, so I just keep going. Don’t stop fighting. I had my family and closest friends who cheered me up.”
Then, destiny came calling.
Jones received a phone call from the Dallas Mavericks to join their summer league roster in Las Vegas.
The guard caught the eyes of the Mavs’ front office and he officially inked a deal on August 21, 2021. He was waived from the Mavs three weeks later.
“I learned a lot honestly, just being around (the Mavs players) was a great feeling,” Jones shared. “(They’re) a good group of guys and a good organization. It’s not normal always, to a point ,where everyone loves being around each other. With the Mavs organization, you have that.”
THE LEGENDS COME CALLING
A week after his dream with the Mavs faded, he signed a deal with the Texas Legends as an affiliate player.
The “affiliate player rule” essentially allows NBA teams to retain up to four of the players that they waive, while keeping an additional two roster spots as two-way contracts.
Jones has taken advantage of the role and flourished with the Legends.
He can score at all three levels (paint, mid-range, three point) and has done so in his entire basketball career.
Most of all, Jones rises for clutch situations and he has a high basketball IQ. He lives for the moment. That’s where he shines.
He’s scrappy and athletic with the ability to rebound for his size due to athleticism and can create for others when finds the open man.
We chatted about the areas of his game where he needs to focus on to advance to the next level.
“Really just everything,” Jones added. “Whether that’s offense knocking down threes, pull ups, floaters, getting to the rim. (I need to be) a playmaker, creating for others and getting a better IQ overall learning the game. On defense, picking up full court being a two-way guy. My biggest thing is staying consistent, with practice and every game.”
Perhaps Jones’ greatest asset is his self-awareness. Something that is unique and rare for a player at the professional ranks when everyone was once a star in college. Through eight games this season, he’s putting in the work and has soared as one of the best in the G League this season.
Will his chance come in the NBA? He has the skills, ability and opportunity to get his moment. As he continues to perfect his skills, it’s only a matter of time before an NBA team comes calling.
UPDATE: Christmas Comes Early
The G League Showcase is an event held in Las Vegas each year, in which the league hosts games in front of NBA executives and scouts. This year’s event had 29 of the 30 teams participating, Texas Legends being one of those teams. A huge opportunity for Jones and many others to show different facets of their game that can be utilized on an NBA roster. This display of talent is a place where NBA General Managers can evaluate talent to sign as a call-up or start trade discussions among other teams. This season is more important than any other season as there has been over 80 players enter health & safety protocols, majority of them in the month of December as numbers continue to rise. The Dallas Mavericks have six players (Luka Dončić, Reggie Bullock, Josh Green, Maxi Kleber, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke) impacted and isolated in health & safety protocols thus far. The NBA has stood firm on not pausing the season or going back to another bubble type situation to finish the season. Instead, the league has created a hardship contract for teams impacted by the recent rise in cases.
A hardship contract is a 10-day contracts that allows a team to sign a player when current players on the roster enter health & safety protocols, to avoid games being postponed. These contracts do not count against the salary cap or roster spots, which is good for teams that have reached capacity of players or in the luxury tax while facing the impact of Covid-19.
An enormous amount of G League players and free agents have been getting signed at a rapid rate via hardship contracts. Dallas Mavericks President of Basketball Operations and GM Nico Harrison is at the G League showcase and has signed five G League players to hardship deals. The list of players include Marquese Chriss, Theo Pinson, George King, and Charlie Brown Jr. and Brandon Knight.
Dallas Mavericks called one more additional player December 22nd, 2021 and that was Jones. Mavs have agreed to sign Jones to a NBA hardship 10-day contract. Jones has experience with the Mavericks in the pre-season and summer league, as the new Man looks to make most of his second stint with the team. The familiarity around the players, working with the staff and knowing the plays will only benefit the transition of Jones joining the team.
It has been a long journey but Jones can finally say he is an NBA player. As Jones thought he would be spending Christmas Day with family, his loved ones will instead be watching on the big screen as the Mavericks play against Jazz on Christmas night on ESPN. Now, the next chapter begins as Jones tries to stay in the league and not look back.
“I got some pretty exciting news this morning and I’m thrilled to be getting back to where it all started, joining the Mavs. I appreciate all of the love and support! Go Mavs!” Jones says on signing with the Mavericks.
This is a chance to prove himself once again and show that there is a spot for Carlik Jones in the NBA.