Kevin Love took to his Instagram page Sunday morning to give a heartfelt tribute to “the best teammate I ever had,” James Jones.
Much criticized during the past two years with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Love attributes his ability to stay grounded to Jones’ guiding hand. He also made it clear that his outstanding performance during Game 7 to help the Cavs win their NBA title over the Golden State Warriors had a lot to do with Jones’ influence.
Here is Love’s entire message:
“Those of you who know Champ will appreciate this… I’d like to tribute the best teammate I’ve ever had, James Jones aka Champ. You taught me more than you know the past 2 years— what it takes to win, how to be a better teammate, how to balance the good/bad off the court, and most importantly…putting team first. Sacrifice for the better of the team, and in order to lead sometimes you have to learn to follow. You’ve been to 6 straight Finals. You’ve been the constant presence we needed in the locker room. You’re the ultimate work horse. The lessons you taught me will stay with me for the rest of my career and life after basketball. No one can avoid the ups and downs of the Playoffs, and when many wrote me off after a tough stretch in the Finals… you and the team stuck by me allowing me to flourish and make plays when it mattered most. Like you told me not too long ago, “don’t be afraid to be yourself.” And now I’ll never be— thanks for everything. Keep being you Champ. ???-?“
Jones is one of Cleveland’s forgotten men, thanks to the fact he played a total of 55 minutes in the 21 playoff games. Yet, as Love reminds us, he was with LeBron James the past six years when they both made the NBA Finals each season, winning three.
There is a lot to learn from a guy who has as much experience with the ins and outs, ups and downs of the NBA as Jones does. Apparently Love soaked it all in, and he is clearly grateful for every lesson that was learned during the tough times.
Many have wondered if Love will even be with Cleveland next season. Lord knows, his tenure thus far hasn’t been idyllic. Yet when head coach Tyronn Lue was asked if Love would be with the Cavs for the 2016-17 season on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike,” he answered yes, with authority, per Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald.
Another guy who’ll be back next year is James, who said before the team’s victory parade that he loves it in Cleveland and has no plans to go anywhere else. One wonders, based on the tenor of Love’s message, if Jones will be along for the ride or if he’ll retire at the age of 35 after 12 years in the NBA.