OKLAHOMA CITY —
First-round draft pick Perry Jones III doesn’t feel any pressure to prove he’s one of the missing links to turn the Oklahoma City Thunder into NBA champions.
His first goal is just to keep up with the standards set by the cornerstones of the franchise that he considered the most fun to watch in the league.
“The hardest part is playing to the level of intensity that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook set. They set the standard for working hard here and definitely living up to that standard, you’ve got to be able to bring it every day,” Jones said Saturday at his introductory news conference.
“Just being in the gym — being in the gym a lot — and try to stay up to par with them.”
It took a surprising slide for Jones to fall all the way to the Thunder at the No. 28 pick. He was considered a top 10 talent and possibly even a candidate to be the No. 1 pick before he decided to return for his sophomore year at Baylor.
Then, news that he had trouble with the meniscus in one of his knees apparently scared more teams away.
“Everybody knows that I wasn’t supposed to slide as far as I did but, to be honest, I’m happy I did. This is a great organization. I mean, it’s the perfect spot,” Jones said after holding up his new No. 3 jersey, signifying the suffix on his name.
“I think everything happens for a reason and these guys treat me like family, so I’m more excited to be here than anything.”
General manager Sam Presti said the knee issue existed even before Jones played the last two seasons at Baylor and it shouldn’t keep him out next season, or even during summer league. Presti even called Jones’ straight-line speed one of the best parts of his game.