DEERFIELD, ILL.—When the Bulls officially announced their training-camp roster, one name came as a mild surprise: Dahntay Jones.
The veteran swingman split last season between Dallas and Atlanta, and while it wasn’t the best year of his career, he had other options besides Chicago heading into training camp. But Jones decided to take a shot at making the Bulls’ roster.
“I’ve admired this organization and Tom Thibodeau from afar, how hard they play. They’re defensive-minded first and I think that fits with my strengths,” he explained to CSNChicago.com after Sunday morning’s practice at the Berto Center. “This team is built for a championship. It’s a challenge for me to come in and try to fit in, and try to do the things that are necessary to get on the floor and try to be a part of this team.”
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Jones is definitely Thibodeau’s type of guy, a tough, well-traveled player who embraces the defensive side of the ball.
“Dahntay has carved a niche for himself in this league,” Thibodeau said. “He’s a hard-nosed competitor, he always finds his way onto a roster, he always ends up playing. Just a hard-playing guy, defense first, so he’s been good so far.”
Other veterans with NBA experience, but without guaranteed contracts, who are vying for the Bulls’ 13th roster spot in training camp include point guard Mike James, a Thibodeau favorite, and Dexter Pittman, who plays center, the team’s biggest need. Jones, who is represented by Chicago-based agent Mark Bartelstein, understands that it’s an uphill battle, but if he lives up to his reputation and is a quick learner, he has a chance to be part of something special.
“Communicating on the defensive end, playing as hard as possible, doing my job and I think the things I do fit well with this organization. It’s just me taking my time to find out how they do things and getting accustomed to it, and trying to fit myself into it,” he said. “They have a base and they have guys who have been together for like four years, so that’s good and they get to start from a different level than most teams. Most teams are picking up multiple players. These guys can start from the door and get into things faster.”
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It doesn’t hurt that there are some familiar faces. After transferring from Rutgers, Jones played at Duke with Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy, as well as former Bulls Chris Duhon and Jay Williams, who Jones knew during their high-school days in New Jersey.
“It definitely does [help], but Coach Thibodeau is amazing and just the way he teaches and talks, I’m more focused on that than the guys that I played with. That’s been so long ago,” said Jones, who missed overlapping in college with All-Star Luol Deng by one year. “They’re great guys and even the guys I weren’t teammates with, they’ve been awesome in trying to help.”