With incumbent starter Jeff Teague sitting out for the second consecutive game nursing a sore right Achilles tendon, backup point guard Tyus Jones drew his first career NBA start.
Two nights ago, head coach Tom Thibodeau inexplicably gave rarely used Aaron Brooks (16 total minutes entering the game) the start instead of the logical choice in Jones. Some people speculated that decision was meant to keep Jones in his normal role with the bench but after Miami raced to the quick 22-11 start, Jones took over the reins and finished with eight points, six rebounds, six assists, and four steals in 33 minutes.
On Sunday afternoon, during the Wolves’ matinee game vs. Phoenix, who were without Devin Booker due to inflammation in his right toe, Thibodeau did what he should have done on Friday night; Jones was penciled in as the starting point guard.
The 21-year-old, third-year player (and Apple Valley, Minnesota product) delivered the goods in front of friends, family, and his most loyal fans. Jones finished with nine points, seven assists, four rebounds, seven steals, two blocks, and zero turnovers in 39 minutes. According to Elias Sports Bureau, this made him the first NBA player to notch at least seven points, seven assists, and seven steals in a single game this season.
Jones wasn’t aware of this seven swipes until Fox Sports North sideline reporter Marney Gellner asked him about them after the win.
“I didn’t know I had that many steals to be honest until Marney told me after the game. It’s important. Trying to just make sure we get stops on the defensive end. My little brother gets on me all the time about how he’s a better defender than me, so this is something I’ll hold over his head.”
When asked what it means to log his first career start for his hometown team, the one he grew up cheering for as a kid, Jones said “That’s something I’ve looked forward to, something I’ll remember. Like I’ve said before, I’ve been a Timberwolves fan my whole life. It’s something that I’ll remember and cherish.”
Teammates, across the board, praised his performance after the Wolves’ 119-108 win over the Suns. “He was amazing. I thought he was absolutely sensational,” said Karl-Anthony Towns, after dropping 32 points and grabbing 12 rebounds to secure his league-leading 16th double-double.
“I think sometimes the box score lies about how effective Tyus was. He was amazing today. He did everything we needed, plus more. It seems a lot of times when Tyus is on the court, a lot of great things happen.”
Jimmy Butler dedicated his entire postgame interview to Jones, who had just wrapped up answering questions as Butler listened on, commenting on all of his answers in the background. “Tell them what you really think, Tyus!” Butler chirped. The two have seemingly grown fond of one another through the first 20 games.
“Tyus got seven steals. He was out there guarding somebody, I like that,” said Butler after turning every question into praise for Jones. “Out there gambling—I guess he took a couple pages outta my book. But Tyus was phenomenal, man. I like the way he’s playing right now.”
“He played amazing on both ends of the floor,” said Andrew Wiggins. “This year he’s a lot stronger and in great shape.”
If his value wasn’t already clear before tonight, Tyus Jones proved he’s more than capable of holding down the point guard spot when called upon. The Wolves’ backup point guard isn’t some two-bit player better off riding the bench and clapping along as the game passes by. Jones is a legitimate player with experience and plenty of room for growth. Thibodeau should take note. It might be very wise to find more minutes for him moving forward.