LIFE’S been fairly cruisy for Dahntay Jones these past couple of years.
The NBA star won a championship ring with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 despite playing just one regular season game before adding 15 playoff appearances to his stat sheet.
It’s been a similar story in 2017 as the 36-year-old played just his second match of the year for the Cavs in game one of their second round playoff series against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday. It’s not that he’s been warming the bench, he just hasn’t actually been part of Cleveland’s squad for very long.
Last year the franchise bought him for $US9000 on the final day of the regular season, and it did the same again this season. LeBron James and Co. managed fine during the year but they feel the presence of a 14-year NBA veteran (Jones debuted for Memphis in 2003) in the postseason is a handy security blanket to have.
Jones was playing pick-up games to keep fit while the Cavs secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference. But Cleveland likes his professionalism and his presence in the locker room, so they brought him back.
Like they did in 2016, the Cavs paid Jones $9000 after signing him just before the end of the regular season. It’s not a lot in the mega-rich NBA landscape — and it became even less on Tuesday.
Jones committed two technical fouls against the Raptors on Tuesday and was ejected from the game. The penalty comes with a $6000 fine. Two-thirds of Jones’ salary was wiped out in a single hit.
Dahntay Jones made $9,000 from Cavs this season. He just got fined $6,000 for 2 techs and an ejection.
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) May 2, 2017
He was pinged for celebrating too boisterously after a dunk, yelling at Raptors rookie Jacob Poeltl and more trash talk in the aftermath earned him an early shower.
A similar thing happened last year when Jones was suspended for game four of the Eastern Conference Finals after hitting Raptors centre Bismack Biyombo in the groin. On that occasion LeBron James picked up the tab and The King is coming to the rescue again in 2017, agreeing to pay Jones’s fine.
But he’s paying it with a word of warning for his reckless teammate.
“I told him tonight, ‘Now listen, Dahntay. Enough is enough,’” James told reporters while laughing after the game. “You gotta stop getting kicked out against Toronto all the time, all right? So I can stop paying your damn fines.’
“But he won’t have to worry about (paying the fine). He’s good.”
The Cavs throttled Toronto 116-105 in the opener of their Eastern Conference semi-final.
They hadn’t played since April 24, when they completed a four-game sweep of Indiana. But the defending champions didn’t show signs of rust and were well prepared to face the revenge-seeking Raptors, who lost to Cleveland in last year’s conference finals.
“As a team I think we had great energy, and even some of the mistakes that we had we were able to cover up for because our energy level was high,” James said. “But we’ll be a lot better (next game).”
Kyle Lowry scored 20 and DeMar DeRozan 19 for the Raptors, who were within seven in the third quarter before James dropped a three-pointer, converted a three-point play then drained another three.
After drawing a foul on a missed layup, James playfully hopped toward the sideline, where a courtside server was passing by. The three-time champion reached and grabbed a beer bottle from her tray and brought it toward his lips before putting it back.
By then, he and the Cavs had already downed the Raptors. With trade acquisitions Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, this Toronto team seemed better equipped to beat Cleveland than the one which lost in six games in last year’s playoffs.
Trouble is, James only seems to be getting better, helping his team secure an 18-point lead in the first half before the Raptors went on a 19-3 burst to pull within 41-39.
But Cleveland regrouped and, playing a turnover-free second quarter, led 62-48 at half. James’ legs looked fresh early on as he and Kyrie Irving teamed up on a stunning alley-oop.
After he poked the ball away for a steal, James took off up the floor with Irving on the break. James pointed toward the backboard and Irving understood the message, bouncing a pass high off the glass that James grabbed and dunked with his left hand.
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