Rod Walker: Herb Jones’ case for NBA All-Defensive team obvious, even if he won’t say it

Rod Walker: Herb Jones' case for NBA All-Defensive team obvious, even if he won't say it
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Herb Jones shut the question down before it even got all the way out of my mouth, much like he so often shuts down some helpless opponent before they can finish a basket.

“Herb, I know you don’t like talking about personal accolades,” I began before the New Orleans Pelicans forward interrupted.

“I ain’t gon talk about it,” Jones said.

When it comes to talking about himself, Jones wants no part of it. He’d much rather let his play speak for him.

And if that doesn’t say what needs to be said, he can count on his teammates to do the talking for him.

It seems to happen during every postgame interview.

Unprompted, one of his teammates will sit in front of the microphone and start a sentence with something like: “If Herb Jones doesn’t get first-team All-Defensive Team …”

In a nine-day stretch, we heard it from three different players.

First, there was CJ McCollum: “If Herb doesn’t make first-team defense, somebody needs to get fired.”

Then there was Zion Williamson that same night: “If Herb is not first-team All-NBA defense, I don’t know what else someone can do to qualify for that. His energy, effort, how he competes and just the joy he plays the game with is very infectious.”

Those comments came after a win over the Houston Rockets when Jones recorded a career-best seven steals.

On Friday night, it was Trey Murphy weighing in after Jones helped hold Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton scoreless.

“I don’t even know what else to say,” Murphy said. “He’s showing each and every night with the premier guys that he is deserving of being on first-team all-defense. I don’t know what else y’all need to see.”

And really, there isn’t much else to see.

With just 21 games remaining heading into Tuesday night’s road game against the Toronto Raptors, Jones has more than proven himself. He’s a big part of why the Pelicans (36-25) are fifth in the Western Conference standings.

Every team needs a glue guy, a player who makes everything come together. That’s what Jones is for the Pelicans. He’s their Draymond Green, except without all the extra stuff. Without Jones, the Pelicans wouldn’t be on pace for 48 wins, which would tie for the third-most in franchise history.

Where would they be?

Willie Green, who became the head coach the same season Jones entered the league, laughed at the thought of not having Jones on the roster.

“His impact on the floor is tremendous,” Green said. “He makes us go defensively. He’s taken more ownership on the defensive side. He’s playmaking on the offensive side. Without Herb Jones, we’d have to figure it out. But we‘re glad we’ve got him.”

As dominant as he’s been serving as the centerpiece of a defense that ranks sixth in the league, he’s been just as impressive on offense. He’s shooting a team-best 42.9% on 3-pointers, which ranks 11th in the NBA. Not bad for a guy who shot just 33% on 3-pointers as a rookie two seasons ago. He’s put in the extra work with shooting guru Fred Vinson to add that dimension to his game.

“I think that’s what separates me,” Jones said. “I enjoy playing both sides of the ball. So trying to affect the game without scoring, that type of stuff excites me.”

It’s the type of mentality you expect from a player worthy of first-team all-defense honors.

And truth be told, he should garner some Defensive Player of the Year votes as well. While that award likely will go to Rudy Gobert of Minnesota or San Antonio rookie Victor Wembanyama, Jones is at least entering a conversation that he really should have been a part of his first two seasons as well. National talking heads seem to know his name now, despite him playing in the shadows of the more popular Williamson, Brandon Ingram and McCollum. 

“I don’t know who is first-team all-defense if it’s not Herb Jones,” Green said. “He’s one of the best in the league. The beauty is the guys he plays against, his peers, they understand that. When you have one of the best guys defensively, he should be rewarded for that.”

Jones still has a little more than a month to persuade media members who vote on the award. Really, there shouldn’t be anything left to prove.

But back to that original question Jones swatted away earlier.

“How would you finish this sentence? If Herb Jones doesn’t make first-team all-defense, fill in the blank.”

Jones paused for a few seconds.

“I can’t,” he said. “I’m just going to leave that up to whoever. I’m going to live with it and do the best I can for my teammates. The awards, I don’t really get caught up into those.”

His teammates do, though. It’s why they are on a mission to make sure the message gets out there that he deserves a spot.

“It feels good to have that respect,” Jones said. “But at the same time, they could be saying that and then I go out and not do my job and it turns on them. I’ll just try to do my job of staying consistent and giving that effort out there so that they can keep saying it.”

Even if Jones won’t say it himself.

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About Mary Weyand 14483 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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