The Boston Celtics currently have 16 players under guaranteed contracts, which gives them only a week to trim that number by one before the season starts. Barring a last minute trade, this may leave the team in the unenviable position of having to cut a player, swallowing their contract and sending them out into the world without an NBA home at a time when most teams have already finalized their rosters.
The preseason presents fringe players an opportunity to fight for the last available roster spots, but Perry Jones III knows that it's a battle he's losing. The forward recently acknowledged his preseason struggles, while also insisting that he's capable of doing better.
"I just wasn't doing well in practice, overthinking in practice and just not playing basketball," Jones told the Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach. "Just being too afraid to make mistakes, and that caused me to make more mistakes and things like that in practice. But my effort was always there. It's just that my performance wasn't what I wanted it to be."
In the three preseason games that Jones has appeared in so far he is seeing a mere 7.6 minutes of court time, which is easily the lowest among the players with guaranteed contracts. In that time he is averaging 2.3 points on 42.9 percent shooting, while posting a -2.0 +/- rating that has been among the worst on the team.
Jones was always going to have an uphill battle ahead of him to make the team, but that climb got even steeper when a death in the family pulled him away from the team while they were touring Europe, causing him to miss the exhibition game against Real Madrid. While Jones certainly can't be blamed for putting family first, his absence put him behind his peers.
The fourth-year player may fall victim to a numbers crunch as the Celtics look to finalize a roster that has no shortage of depth. Boston seems to be high on the potential of all three of the rookies they will introduce this season, which makes it harder to fit a player like Jones. Even if the rookies spend some time in the D-League this year, they still count toward the 15-man roster limit.
If Jones is unable to beat out the competition to claim a spot on this Celtics roster, don't rule out the team extending his presence in the league with a trade, which is a topic that was discussed here on CelticsBlog this week. He may not bring back much in return, but you can never rule out Danny Ainge attempting to extract any amount of value he can find in a deal.
As Jones' future with the Celtics hangs in the balance, he is well aware that the decision is ultimately out of his control. All he can do is work hard to convince the team that he's worth taking a chance on. His tantalizing athleticism has left many hoping that the former first-round pick would eventually live up to his potential, but it hasn't happened yet.
"I just want to prove that because of circumstances, I haven't been myself," explained Jones. "I'm a much better player than I've shown."
Jones still believes in his potential. Now he has to show it.